Relative fitness of wild and captive-reared piping plovers: Does egg salvage contribute to recovery of the endangered Great Lakes population?

Erin A. Roche, Francesca J. Cuthbert, Todd W. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Since 1992, efforts to recover the US federally endangered Great Lakes piping plover (Charadrius melodus) have included population supplementation with captive-reared young raised from abandoned eggs. Using banding data collected 1993-2008 and Cormack-Jolly-Seber models in program MARK we estimated resighting rates (ρ) and apparent survival (Φ) of first-year (1) and after-first-year (2+) plovers. Reproductive success was measured by estimating mean number of eggs laid, chicks hatched and chicks fledged per wild-reared or captive-reared parent, and these values were compared with a permutation test. The best-supported mark-resighting model indicated wild-reared plovers had higher Φ1 and Φ2+ than captive-reared plovers. Breeding propensity influenced detection of wild plovers, whereas unique band combinations facilitated detection of yearling captive-reared plovers. Captive-reared (n = 10) and wild-reared (n = 57) plovers laid similar numbers of eggs, but wild-reared plovers hatched 36% more chicks and fledged 56% more young. Reproductive values derived from matrix models suggest captive-reared piping plovers are less fit than similarly aged wild-reared birds upon release and demonstrate reduced fitness in subsequent years. The Great Lakes captive-rearing effort has successfully produced a minimum of 10 breeding adults from 192 eggs that otherwise would have had no reproductive value; these captive-reared individuals now constitute up to 3% of the total population. Small scale salvage and captive-rearing of abandoned eggs should be considered as a technique to supplement existing recovery efforts in highly imperiled populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3079-3088
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The captive-rearing program is possible because of consistent support and commitment to all aspects of piping plover recovery by the University of Michigan Biological Station. We also thank Abby Powell, Lauren Wemmer and Jennifer Stucker for pioneering the research and techniques used for captive-rearing. Tom Schneider, Bonnie Van Damm, the Detroit Zoological Society and many other zoological institutions currently participate in captive-rearing of Great Lakes plovers and we are grateful for their significant contributions. We also thank Jack Dingledine for his good sense of humor and critical role in egg salvage decisions. We are grateful to Steven Pruett-Jones who provided very helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Finally, we are appreciative of the insightful comments provided by two anonymous reviewers of this manuscript. Funding was provided by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, University of Michigan Biological Station, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station.


  • Captive-rearing
  • Charadrius melodus
  • Program MARK
  • Shorebird
  • Survival


Dive into the research topics of 'Relative fitness of wild and captive-reared piping plovers: Does egg salvage contribute to recovery of the endangered Great Lakes population?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this