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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Foster eggs or chicks of waders with wild conspecifics Bird Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

  • Two small trials in North America found that piping plovers Charadrius melodus accepted chicks introduced into their broods, although in one case the chick died later the same day.
  • A replicated study from New Zealand found that survival of fostered black stilts Himantopus novasezelandiae was higher for birds fostered to conspecifics rather than a closely related species.


Supporting evidence from individual studies


A small trial on a beach in Nova Scotia, Canada in July 1983 (Flemming 1987) found that a pair of piping plovers Charadrius melodus adopted a chick introduced to their brood after it was abandoned by its parents when one day old. The foster parents brooded the chick but, following heavy rains on the day of introduction, it disappeared and is assumed to have died. The author suggests that its weakened condition, due to being abandoned by its parents meant that it could not survive the rainstorm, whereas its ‘stepsiblings’ could and were later seen flying.



A small trial on a beach in Connecticut, USA, in May 1990 (Midura et al. 1992) successfully introduced an orphaned piping plover Charadrius melodus chick into a foster family with four similarly-aged chicks. No aggressive behaviour was observed towards the foster chicks and all five young were seen flying in July. The chick was originally released within 11 m of the foster family when it was one day old.



A replicated study in South Island, New Zealand (Reed et al. 1993), investigated the survival of black stilts Himantopus novasezelandiae, fostered by both conspecifics and black-winged stilts H. himantopus. This study found that there was higher recruitment into the local population from chicks fostered by conspecifics. The study is discussed in more detail in ‘Foster eggs or chicks with wild non-conspecifics (cross-fostering)’ and ‘Artificially incubate and hand-rear birds in captivity’.


Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2019) Bird Conservation. Pages 141-290 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.