As human development continues in coastal areas, shoreline properties adjacent to expansive tidal marsh habitat are increasingly used for access to coastal waterways via long piers (>30 m) over marsh habitat. These tidal wetlands provide breeding and foraging habitat for many marsh birds, which may be affected by the human disturbance associated with long piers. Our objectives were to determine the effect of long piers over vegetated tidal marshes on the relative abundance and species richness of marsh birds. We completed combined passive and callback surveys in tidal marsh habitat at 22 sites with long piers and 24 sites without long piers, May–July 2005–2006 in Worcester County, Maryland, USA. Pier sites had lower relative abundance and species richness of obligate marsh birds than nonpier sites. Pier sites had a greater relative abundance of gulls, terns, herons, and egrets than nonpier sites. Pier sites had fewer species of herons and egrets than at nonpier sites. The presence of long piers had no affect on facultative marsh birds. Long pier density was negatively related to obligate marsh bird relative abundance and species richness, and facultative marsh bird species richness, whereas it was positively related to the relative abundance and species richness of gulls and terns. Herons and egrets relative abundance and species richness were not related to long pier density. Obligate marsh birds were negatively affected by long piers, whereas herons, egrets, gulls, and terns appeared to benefit from perching opportunities. Based on the negative effects of long piers on obligate marsh birds, management should focus on reducing the presence and density of long piers in tidal marshes by requiring the removal of existing long piers, or reducing or eliminating permits for construction of new long piers.
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Vol. 73 • No. 8