Date of Award


Document Type



Environmental and Forest Biology

Thesis Advisor

Jonathan Cohen


To properly manage the populations of endangered birds it is important to understand the factors affecting nest survival. Ground nesting birds, such as the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), are at risk of nest loss from predation and tidal flooding, which varies among nesting sites. Nest site selection characteristics may affect those threats. I compared nests from the low-wave energy Peconic Bay shorelines (n=25) and the high-wave energy Atlantic Ocean shorelines (n=26) on the South Fork of Long Island, NY in 2013. I measured nest site characteristics including the substrate composition and vegetation cover as well as nest distance from vegetation and high tide line. Mean ± SE percent sand cover was greater for ocean nests (87.61%±1.63%) than bay nests (51.44±3.76%; P < 0.001), as was percent vegetation cover (Ocean- 7.80±1.75%; Bay-1.34±0.68%; P < 0.001). Percent shell cover was greater for bay nests (10.34±1.54%) than for ocean nests (2.56±0.73%; P < 0.001). The distance to the high tide line relative to the width of the beach (distance/width) was 0.87 for ocean nests and 0.72 for bay nests. These findings can be used to assist land managers in the protection of the threatened Piping Plover. Understanding the nest site characteristics, land managers can use vegetation management on ocean beaches due to the large percent of vegetated nests, and continue predation management on both bay and ocean beaches. Also understanding the preferred nest sites, pre-nest fencing can be established to protect ideal nesting habitats from human disturbance.

Included in

Ornithology Commons