Using nest temperature to estimate nest attendance of piping plovers

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Recent technological innovations allow remote monitoring of avian nest temperature that minimizes disturbance and expense without altering clutch sizes. However, the efficacy of such techniques has not been determined for ground-nesting birds. We compared the efficacy of 2 techniques, iButton® data loggers (Maxim/Dallas Semiconductor Corp., Sunnyvale, CA) and custom-built thermocouples, to measure nest temperature of piping plovers (Charadrius melodus) relative to nest attendance at Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts, USA. Neither technique affected hatching success (U = 389.5, P = 0.874) or rates of predation of nests containing devices (P = 0.894). We estimated nest attendance successfully with thermocouples in nests as long as air and surface temperatures were <29°C and 43°C, respectively. Although iButtons could not be used to determine duration of on-bouts and off-bouts of incubating piping plovers, they were effective at determining when nests were abandoned or predated. We recommend the use of thermocouples for studying nest attendance of ground-nesting birds, in general, and of threatened and endangered species, in particular, where disturbance should be minimized and altering clutch sizes is not feasible.

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Journal of Wildlife Management