From 1986-2005, Virginia supported between 6% and 13% of the federally threatened Atlantic Coast Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) breeding population with an annual average of 111 nesting pairs (SD ± 25.0, range = 84-192 pairs). The statewide population remained relatively static from 1986-2003 (x̄ = 104.4 pairs, SD ± 12.0, range = 84-127 pairs). In 2004, the population increased to 152 pairs and in the following year grew to 192 pairs. Over 95% of the state’s Piping Plover breeding activity occurred on the barrier islands. From 1986-1997, five pairs or less were observed at Craney Island, a dredge material deposition site in Portsmouth and at Grandview Nature Preserve, a high-use recreation area located in the City of Hampton. Predators and human disturbance likely account for the present-day absence of nesting pairs from both inland sites. From 1990-2002, annual productivity studies revealed an annual average of 1.14 fledged young per pair (SD ± 0.4, range = 0.59-1.65). The 2003 breeding season marked the first time Piping Plover productivity approached two fledged young per pair, which was followed by another increase in 2004 when productivity rose to over two fledged young per pair. The virtual doubling of Virginia’s breeding population observed in 2005 along with the recent increase in breeding success represents an important contribution to the overall security of the Atlantic Coast Piping Plover population. We attribute the vitality of Virginia’s Piping Plover population to the combined effects of predator management, public education and outreach, and the unique conservation status of the barrier islands that affords plovers a level of protection not found elsewhere within the Atlantic coast breeding range.
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