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Manage one beach or two? Movements and space-use of the threatened hooded plover (Thinornis rubricollis) in south-eastern Australia
journal contributionposted on 2009-06-01, 00:00 authored by Mike WestonMike Weston, G Ehmke, G Maguire
An understanding of space use and dispersal of a wildlife species is essential for effective management. We examined the movements of a beach-dwelling, threatened population of hooded plover (Thinornis rubricollis) in southern central Victoria, Australia, by analysing sightings of colour-banded birds (4897 sightings; 194 birds tracked for up to 9 years). Most movements were relatively short (5050 ± 305 m), with 61.4% <1 km and 95.3% <20 km; they lacked directional or sexual bias. The extent of coastline used by individual birds was 47.8 ± 58.0 km. Regional differences in average distances moved by adults were apparent. For adults, movement rates (mean distance per day) were higher during the non-breeding season than during the breeding season. Non-breeding adults generally remained close to their partners (non-breeding, 456.3 ± 163.9 m; breeding, 148.2 ± 45.3 m). Largest flock sizes were recorded during the non-breeding period, and flocking was not uniformly distributed along the coast but appeared to be concentrated in particular locations. The frequency of pair cohesion (i.e. when the distance between partners was zero on a given day) was similar during the breeding (69.6%) and non-breeding seasons (67.7%). Breeding territories (kernel analysis) were 36.7 ± 5.7 ha and overlapped from year to year in all cases (23 pairwise comparisons; 47.9 ± 7.1% overlap). The high fidelity and constancy of territories confirms they warrant ongoing management investment, although the species relies on a matrix of breeding and non-breeding sites. The latter appear to occur in specific parts of the coast and warrant enhanced protection and more research attention. Fragmentation of the breeding population might occur where habitat is rendered unsuitable for > ~50 km.