This week’s blog will focus on something new I have learned. Given a recent outing with the park’s Snowy Plover biologist, I am excited to write about this very special shorebird than can be found in Point Reyes National Seashore!

The Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus) inhabits ocean-fronting beaches, riverine gravel bars, shorelines of lagoons, and inland saline lakes. It was listed as federally threatened in 1993 on the Endangered Species Act and is one of the least numerous shorebirds in North America. In fact, the estimated North American population size is estimated at 25,869 with the Pacific Coast subpopulation at just 2,375 birds. Western Snowy Plovers eat a variety of invertebrates, from amphipods and flies along the coast to beetles and spiders more inland. Snowy Plovers nest on the ground in the sand and can have 3-5 nests in one season!

The Western Snowy Plover population is threatened by habitat loss, disturbance, and predation. Management efforts include symbolic fencing, nest exclosures, and beach closures to prevent disturbance and predation. The recovery program in place aims to achieve well-distributed increases in numbers and productivity and secure long-term protection for Snowy Plovers and their habitat. This work is done in part through beach surveys, consisting of scanning for Snowy Plovers and nests, which I was able to join along for one day!

 In the field with Kevin García López  and Matt Lau
In the field with Kevin García López (left) and Matt Lau (right) (Photo by Diego Morales).

With Snowy Plover biologist Matt Lau and intern Kevin García López, we surveyed a park beach all morning and saw nearly 15 Snowy Plovers, including two chicks! However, numerous recorded nests around the park have failed due to predation. Along the walk, ravens far outnumbered Snowy Plovers, but being able to see the birds at all was an amazing experience.

Western Snowy Plover
Western Snowy Plover (Photo by Diego Morales).
Diego Morales surveying for Western Snowy Plover
Diego Morales surveying for Western Snowy Plovers (Photo by Kevin García López).
Western Snowy Plover
Western Snowy Plover (Photo by Kevin García López).
Western Snowy Plovers
Western Snowy Plovers (Photo by Diego Morales).

Learn how to ID a Snowy Plover yourself!

  • Small, slightly larger than a sparrow
  • Thin, dark bill
  • Dark gray legs
  • Snowy white underpart
  • Sandy, brownish upperparts
  • Varying black collar, ear patch, and forehead
Western Snowy Plover
Western Snowy Plover close-up (Photo by Matt Lau).

Again, thank you for checking in as I continue to learn and work in Point Reyes National Seashore! I hope you learned something new, and feel free to leave any questions or comments below. Keep reading below for more weekly updates in photos!

Point Reyes Bird Observatory with a board of the species caught and banded by interns
Point Reyes Bird Observatory with a board of the species caught and banded by interns (Photo by Diego Morales).
Diego Morales with nurdles collected during a ranger program
Diego Morales with 296 nurdles collected during a ranger program (Photo by Fiona O’Kelley).
Tule Elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) in the Tule Elk Reserve
Tule Elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) in the Tule Elk Reserve (Photo by Diego Morales).
Diego Morales Social Media Team bio and photo
The newest member of the Point Reyes National Seashore Social Media Team (Screenshot by Diego Morales).
Point Reyes Instagram post created by Diego Morales
Point Reyes Instagram post created by Diego Morales (Screenshot by Diego Morales).

Diego Morales

Diego was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and is an undergraduate student in the Society & Environment major and Anthropology minor programs at the University of California at Berkeley. This summer he is interning as an interpretation and resource education assistant at Point Reyes National Seashore in the interpretive department. Before Point Reyes, Diego spent a semester as an Every Kid in a Park intern at Rosie the Riveter/World War II National Historical Park. A more long-term educational and career goal of his would be to bridge and solve environmental and social issues being faced, ideally as an environmental lawyer.

2 Comments

Marian Brubaker · June 27, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Diego, I love your blog and pictures. I’m learning so many new things from reading it. You are doing very important work at Pt. Reyes. Love, Grandma

Carlo · July 7, 2019 at 3:10 pm

Crushing it!

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