Biodiversity Data Journal (Jan 2023)

Multi-year monitoring of Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) and other shorebirds in The Bahamas

  • Matthew Jeffery,
  • Walker Golder,
  • Jen Rock,
  • Cheri Gratto-Trevor,
  • Sidney Maddock,
  • Elise Elliott-Smith,
  • Caleb Spiegel,
  • Daniela Linero Triana

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11
pp. 1 – 12


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The Bahamas provides a wide range of crucial coastal habitats to many declining resident and migratory birds. Amongst these species is the Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus), whose breeding populations are all listed as federally threatened or endangered in the United States and Canada. This species winters in the southern U.S. and the Caribbean, including The Bahamas, spending most of the year on the wintering grounds. Nonetheless, prior to the census data presented here, reports of Piping Plovers from The Bahamas were few and incidental. Therefore, repeated surveys are essential to increase understanding of the distribution, abundance and movement patterns of Piping Plovers and other shorebirds in the Bahamian territory. This dataset provides information on the abundance and distribution of the Piping Plover across multiple islands and much of the suitable habitat that exists in The Bahamas. It also provides some information on the variability of Piping Plover count data and presence of other shorebird species. Furthermore, these data may serve as baseline information on Piping Plover abundance and shorebird site occupancy by which to assess key candidate sites for protection and also future impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise and hurricanes.The National Audubon Society (NAS), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) conducted a multi-year shorebird census in The Bahamas. Surveys initiated by ECCC and many other collaborators were also part of a multi-year survival study. Censuses were conducted across 16 different islands between the years 2006 and 2020. These surveys were performed with the cooperation of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), volunteer biologists and scientists from the United States and Canada. Biologists working with NAS, ECCC and USGS used satellite imagery, historical records and local knowledge from Bahamian residents to identify sites with suitable habitat for Piping Plovers. Experienced researchers visited each site during winter (November-February), identified and counted Piping Plovers and, when possible, other bird species in each of the sampled locations. In total, the resulting database holds 2,684 observations of 62 bird species, of which 77% belong to 24 shorebird species. Approximately 30% of all presence records belong to the Piping Plover. It is important to emphasise that the counts reported in this dataset represent minimum estimates of local shorebird assemblages. Since abundance and distribution of birds vary with changing conditions, representative estimates are best achieved via repeated surveys that reflect a range of conditions including timing (day, year, month), weather (wind direction and speed, precipitation), tide state etc.