Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: North Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

North Carolina Project

Assessing the effects of the National Park Service predator and vehicle management practices on nesting shorebirds at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

September 2013 - November 2017


Participating Agencies

  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore

The study will be comprised of two components. 1) An examination of historic predator and vehicle management practices and American Oystercatcher distribution, abundance, and productivity data to assess whether these practices are meeting the National Seashores short and long-term management objectives. This work will model spatial and temporal patterns of American Oystercatcher abundance and productivity from 1998 to the present in relation to relevant covariates including: the proximity and intensity of predator management, vehicle and pedestrian closure type, vehicle and pedestrian intensity, and causes of nest failure. Response variables will include the number of nesting pairs, hatching success, and fledging success. 2) An experimental evaluation of current vehicle and pedestrian closures for breeding American Oystercatchers to determine the relationship between closure type, size, and duration and oystercatcher behavior, physiology, and nesting success. Methods developed for American Oystercatchers at Cape Look National Seashore from 2010 – 2012 will be used to quantify the sensitivity of nesting birds to vehicles and pedestrians. Digital video and heart rate monitors embedded in artificial eggs will record changes in bird behavior and physiology in relation to the proximity of vehicles and pedestrians. Studies of the movement, activity patterns, and habitat use of radio-tagged birds will quantify the habitat requirements and behavioral responses of adults and pre-fledging chicks to various types of anthropogenic disturbance.