The Great Lakes population of Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) is federally endangered, numbering between 17 and 71 pairs during 1986–2011. Recovery efforts are diverse, but a major management focus is reduction of predation on eggs and chicks. We evaluated rates and potential causes of mortality for 2,143 chicks from 597 broods at 31 separate breeding sites during 1992–2011. Average daily survival rates of chicks increased from hatch until fledging (∼23 days of age), but this pattern exhibited substantial variation among breeding sites and years, so we included breeding sites and years as random effects in our models. Average (± SE) survival to fledging age was 0.556 ± 0.011. Survival increased with year (1992–2011) and declined with hatching date (28 May–25 July), with seasonal declines becoming more pronounced in recent years. Survival of chicks was reduced by heavy rain (>1 cm) during the first 3 days of life, but <10% of broods were affected. Although site effects were pronounced in the random effects analysis, only one covariate related to nest locations was important: chick survival decreased with proximity of nests to trees. Because broods that hatched earlier in the season had higher survival, management efforts should be focused on finding and protecting nests of early breeding pairs. In addition, because some sites have lower chick survival than others, identifying and ameliorating factors that contribute to low fledging success will likely boost productivity at these sites.
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Vol. 130 • No. 1