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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Piping Plovers and Least Terns of
the Great Plains and Nearby

A draft protocol for assessing piping plover reproductive success
on Great Plains alkali lakes


This protocol should supplement, but not replace, on-site training from experienced personnel. Our intended audience is chiefly resource managers and their field staff, although graduate students and other researchers may find parts of the protocol helpful. Regardless, it is crucial that any persons considering monitoring reproductive success of piping plovers carefully review their information needs, long-term goals, and the availability of personnel and other resources needed to complete the task. Meaningful productivity data are difficult and time-consuming to collect. An experienced investigator can manage to monitor, on a weekly basis 40-60 plover pairs at several breeding sites over roughly 500 km². Because of tremendous annual and geographic variation in plover productivity, data are needed from at least dozens of pairs over several years to provide useful information. The work also might result in disturbance to an already imperiled resource.

In sum, monitoring should not be undertaken without adequate training and knowledge, clearly defined and justified information need, and sensitivity to the status and welfare of the species.
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