Research on breeding American Oystercatchers has focused on identifying factors that affect reproductive success but little attention has been paid to parent behavior during chick-rearing. Parental attendance of American Oystercatchers was measured in Bulls Bay and along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (Waterway) within the Cape Romain Region, South Carolina, USA, during 2006. Parental attendance rates averaged 90.9% in Bulls Bay and 81.4% along the Waterway. Daily survival of chicks was higher in Bulls Bay (0.989 ± 0.007) compared to the Waterway (0.966 ± 0.012). The extent of shellfish reefs (i.e. foraging areas) adjacent to nest sites was greater in Bulls Bay (5,633 ± 658 m2) compared to the Waterway (3,273 ± 850 m2). Mean parental attendance in Bulls Bay was higher for successful broods (90.5%) compared to failed broods (79.8%). In contrast, mean parental attendance along the Waterway was higher for failed broods (93.4%) compared to successful broods (67.5%). Less extensive shellfish reefs adjacent to nest sites along the Waterway appeared to require parents to depart more frequently to forage and the resultant reduction in attendance may have negatively affected chick survival. Bulls Bay may provide higher quality nesting habitat compared to the Waterway with respect to proximity to food resources and parental attendance. Management and conservation efforts for American Oystercatchers should consider the relationship between foraging and nesting habitat and variability in behavioral attributes, such as parental attendance, in relationship to environmental conditions which ultimately affect reproductive success.
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Vol. 33 • No. 4