2018 season is successful for nesting least terns and piping plovers

Each summer the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (Program) and its partners survey the river and off-channel nesting habitat to document least tern and piping plover abundance and productivity within the Associated Habitat Area (AHR) for the Program. Monitoring typically occurs from 1 May – 1 August; however, the monitoring season has been extended when least terns or piping plovers are known to be within the AHR outside of this range of dates.

Similar to previous years, there was a good distribution of nests across off-channel sand and water (OCSW) and sandpit sites throughout the AHR, but no in-channel nesting was observed during 2018. Numbers of breeding pairs observed during 2018 was high and similar to previous years when the Program ceased adding any more off-channel nesting habitat. 2018 was a successful year for least tern nests and chicks as 70% (78 of 112) of least tern nests hatched which resulted in an overall fledge ratio of 1.46 fledglings per breeding pair. Piping plover nests were highly successful as well with 74% (35 of 47) of nests hatching; however, chick success was poor which resulted in an all-time low of 0.65 fledglings per breeding pair for piping plovers.

Least tern and piping plover breeding pair counts and productivity, 2001-2018.

Breeding pair counts for both species were similar to the previous few years when the Program last made any substantial increases in the availability of off-channel nesting habitat (top plot).  While fledge ratios for least terns (middle plot) was high during 2018, piping plover chicks struggled which resulted in an all-time low fledge ratio for piping plovers (bottom plot).