Least Terns and Piping Plovers Need Wetlands Too!


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By Christine Thody

Wetlands are vital for endangered interior least terns (Sternula antillarum athalassos) and threatened piping plovers (Charadrius melodus). Although terns and plovers are most often associated with sandbars, beaches and other areas of sand, wetlands play a crucial role in their survival. During spring and fall migration, foraging piping plovers use wetland mudflats to fuel up on invertebrates. Foraging least terns search the open water in wetlands for small fish. Without Rainwater Basin wetlands, both species would expend precious energy flying long distances between stopovers. This could leave them undernourished when they reach their nesting and wintering areas, which could lead to lowered reproductive success or death.

Forming partnerships in conservation can be difficult, but it is well worth the effort. The Rainwater Basin Joint Venture is an excellent example of a successful partnership. Their work with Mr. Cox and others demonstrates how projects can be accomplished successfully, if people are willing to work together. The Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership (TPCP) is another successful partnership based here in Nebraska. The TPCP is a group of local, state, and federal agencies, private industry, housing developers and others that work together to protect interior least terns and piping plovers at their nesting areas. The TPCP accomplishes this while allowing home construction and sand and gravel extraction to continue without disturbance to nesting birds.

Working together in partnership helps people understand the needs of the others and with that knowledge find successful solutions to conservation concerns.


The Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership, founded in 1999, is supported by the Nebraska Environmental Trust and is based at the University of Nebraska School of Natural Resources. More information, along with the 2010 Tern and Plover Conservation Partnership Annual Report, may be found at www.ternandplover.unl.edu or by contacting the partnership at ternsandplovers[at]unl[dot]edu, mailing address 3310 Holdrege Street, 153 Hardin Hall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68583-0931.


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