Selection of a foraging site entails costs and benefits which are reflected in survival and reproductive success. We studied Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) foraging-site selection during the breeding season (2001-2003) on the Missouri River and examined the relationship between site selection and invertebrate abundance indices within habitats. Foraging adult plovers selected protected shoreline (inter-sandbar channels, inlets, and backwater areas) more often than expected based on availability (use: 92% ± 3%; availability: 58% ± 5%). Invertebrate biomass and numbers along exposed shoreline did not differ among reaches. Along the protected shoreline, invertebrate biomass and numbers were higher below a dam with an epilimnetic release and a relatively constant release rate (epilimnetic reach) than at the other two reaches. On the epilimnetic river reach, invertebrate biomass and numbers were higher along the protected shoreline than on the main channel shoreline. On a reach below a dam with a hypolimnetic release and diel flow pulse (hypolimnetic reach) and a cold water reservoir, invertebrate indices were similar on the protected and exposed shoreline. Invertebrate numbers were higher in saturated and moist habitats than in vegetated and dry habitats (P < 0.05). At the epilimnetic and hypolimnetic reaches, foraging Piping Plover chicks used saturated and moist habitats more than vegetated and dry habitats, based on availability. On the Missouri River, protected shorelines were important foraging sites for Piping Plovers during the breeding season, and sandbars with low-lying moist habitat were important to foraging chicks. Piping Plovers will benefit from increased availability of these habitats on managed or created sandbars on the Missouri River.
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