Artificial chick shelters might improve productivity of beach-nesting birds threatened by anthropogenic disturbance. We investigated the efficacy of three different chick shelter designs against four criteria: accessibility to chicks over time, thermal insulation, conspicuousness to beach-goers, and practicality (cost and ease of transport). One design (‘A-frame’) was selected because it offered the greatest thermal insulation, was the least conspicuous, most cost effective, and performed equally well in terms of accessibility. We deployed these artificial shelters on Hooded Plover Thinornis rubricollis territories where broods were present (n = 11), and compared the behaviour and survival rate of chicks to that at control sites (n = 10). We were unable to discern any difference in the behaviour of broods when artificial shelters were available. However, the survival rate of chicks to fledging was 71.8% higher where an artificial shelter was provided (n = 21 broods). This was validated by analysing data from a larger sample of broods monitored as part of an active volunteer-based management programme; shelters conferred a 42.8% increase in survival to fledging (n = 81 broods). Thus, artificial shelters have the potential to increase survival rates of threatened shorebird chicks, though the mechanisms through which survival is increased require further investigation.
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