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Snowy plovers are now nesting on California beaches

Western Snowy Plover
Western Snowy Plover
Mike Baird

The first snowy plover egg of 2014 was spotted in California recently, supposedly here in San Diego, though it hasn’t been confirmed. This means that snowy plovers will begin to lay their eggs on beaches around the area. This also signals that it is time to be mindful of the barriers and signs sectioning off an area of the beaches so these birds can breed.

Western snowy plovers have the status of threatened in California by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Much of the reason why they are having problems is the shrinking amount of available nesting areas. Snowy plovers, as well as some other shorebirds, nest on open beaches and their young feed on the kelp flies and other insects along the shore. Beaches up and down the California coast are also heavily used by people and their pets. Most people don’t intend to harm the plovers and don’t realize that their activities are doing so. That’s were shorebird stewards, plover patrols, and plover stewards throughout California come into play.

In San Diego, the Tijuana Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve runs a “Shorebird Steward” program. In this program, volunteers walk up and down the beaches were snowy plovers are known to nest enforcing boundaries and educating the public about the birds. The nests are often hard to see and easy to overlook, so educating the public is important. Other ways people help these birds on their own is to stay out of the nesting area, keep your dog on a leash near these areas, and keep a respectful distance away from the chicks and nests.

Snowy plovers live year around in San Diego and a common place to see them is south of Imperial Beach near the Tijuana River Mouth. Males can be seen chasing each other around and claiming small depressions in the sand. They can also be seen feeding around San Diego Bay in small numbers. They feed on insects such as kelp flies as well as small crustaceans and worms.