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What is a Snowy Plover?

Posted by Jody on November 2, 2011

A Snowy Plover is a small sparrow-sized shore bird with a gray neck and back. They sport dark patches behind the eyes, on either side of the neck, and on the forehead. Year round residents of Washington, Oregon, and California coastal beaches, they crouch in small depressions in the sand to take cover from the shore winds. In their natural habitat of flat, open coastal beaches, dunes or near the mouths of streams, Snowy Plovers are extremely well camouflaged. (OK, I’ll say it. They are sooooooo adorable!!) “Plover nests usually contains three tiny eggs, which are camouflaged to look like sand and barely visible to even the most well-trained trained eye. Plovers will use almost anything they can find on the beach to make their nests, including kelp, driftwood, shells, rocks, and even human footprints.”(WesternSnoweyPlover.org)

Western Snowy Plover, Morro Bay, California (Photo by Mike Baird/Wikimedia Commons)

“Plovers have lived on California beaches for thousands of years. Currently it is estimated that only 1300 Western Snowy Plovers are breeding along the Pacific Coast.” (NPS/Point Reyes National Seashore) The Snowy Plover is currently listed as a federally threatened species and is therefore protected by the Endangered Species Act. This means that beach goers who disturb plovers or their breeding habitat may be cited or fined.

3 Snowy Plover Eggs on the Beach, San Diego County, California (Photo UpLoad: Magnus Manske/Wikimedia Commons)

Here are some tips from the National Park Service for sharing the seashore with the Western Snowy Plover:

Respect posted habitat areas. Stay at least 50 feet away from the birds and nests & report unprotected nests.

Walk dogs only where authorized and always on leash. (Dogs are prohibited from Snowy Plover nesting beaches during breeding season – from mid-March to mid-September)

Properly dispose of garbage to avoid attracting predators. (Crows, ravens, falcons, harriers, foxes, skunks, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons)

Leave driftwood lying on the sand.  It provides nesting and feeding habitat for Western Snowy Plovers.  Upright wood provides perches for bird predators.

Walk near the water line on the beach.

Let’s share the seashore with our fine feathered friends!  We’ll all have a great day at the beach!

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