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!
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.
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
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!