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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Wildlife and Fisheries Science

First Advisor

Kenneth F. Higgins


Sandbar habitat along the lower Missouri River in South Dakota was examined during May - August 1991 to determine the influence of predation on piping plover (Charadrius melodus) and least tern (Sterna antillarum) productivity. Egested raptor pellet collections, track surveys, time-lapse photography, and site observations indicated that American kestrels (Falco sparyerius), American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), raccoons (Procyon lotor), great horned owls (lma.Q yirginianus), and mink (Mustela yison) were having a significant effect on the survival of piping plover and least tern nests and chicks in this region. American crows, raccoons and mink were associated with 98. 0% of the known nest losses. American kestrel and great horned owl predation accounted for 93. 0% of the chick mortality. The effects of predation were found to be highly site specific. Species of predators identified as the primary source of the nest and chick mortality were different among river reaches and among sites within river reaches. Increasing piping plover and least tern nest success and chick survival, through predator deterrence, was evaluated in 1991 - 1992 using chick escape shelters, exclosure cages, and strobe lights as passive deterrent devices. Piping plover nest success was significantly increased (P < 0.001) with the use of exclosure cages. Piping plover and least tern nest success and chick survival appeared to be enhanced with the use of strobe light systems although small sample size prevented detection of statistical differences. Chick shelters were not utilized by chicks of either species.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Least tern -- Missouri River Region -- Productivity
Least tern -- South Dakota -- Productivity
Plovers -- Productivity
Predation (Biology)


Includes bibliographical references (page 70-80)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 1993 Casey D. Kruse. All rights reserved.