The nest survival of the Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) in coastal Mississippi was modeled to better understand their breeding biology and suggest management strategies for protecting nesting colonies. During the 2004 and 2005 breeding seasons a total of 301 nests was monitored and hatching success was 67% in 2004 and 39% in 2005. Mean clutch size differed between years, although mean incubation length did not differ between years or between colonies on the mainland and barrier islands (P = 0.70). Nest survival was influenced by year, seasonal variation within year, clutch size, and colony. Nest survival was greatest in 2004, and within years nest survival followed a seasonal pattern where it was high from May through late June and then decreased through early August. Large clutches had greater survival than small clutches. There was considerable inter-colony variation in nest survival, and it appeared that low survival was correlated with disturbance risk at many colonies. This study provides the first detailed information on the nest survival of the Black Skimmer in Mississippi, increases the understanding of seasonal variation and other influences on nesting success, and provides a basis for suggesting conservation measures for this species during the nesting season.
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Vol. 31 • No. 1