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Nesting Snowy Plovers of Los Angeles

May 21, 2017

Click HERE for a slideshow of banded Snowy Plovers, then scroll down
to the slideshow located below the photo of the banded chick.
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Use the arrows to advance and reverse.

Update as of May 20, 2017
For the first time since 1949, when they last nested in Manhattan Beach, Western Snowy Plovers have nested on Los Angeles beaches. Not just one nest or even one location, but several nests at three different locations! Needless to say, this caused great surprise, excitement, and some consternation among the volunteers and professionals who have worked with these birds for so long.

Male arriving at nest, Malibu (Larry Loeher 5-12-17)

Surprise, because it had been so long since they last nested here, there had been virtually no nesting attempts in earlier years, and no one thought there was a chance it would happen.

Excitement, because it signaled that we humans had actually changed our behavior sufficiently to permit these birds to make these nesting attempts.

Consternation, because we were not prepared for it. We have no paid biologists for the summer season when Snowy Plovers are – until now – absent, and no money in the pipeline from any of the various governmental agencies involved. We had no protocols (plans, methods, etc.) in place for assisting the birds or for at least doing a better job of keeping people out of the birds’ way. We need to educate people and encourage them to: 1) back off from the birds, including not observing them too closely; 2) keep their boisterous pets and children away from the birds; 3) reduce potentially litter on the beaches. With the local governmental authorities we need to: 1) make sure they know where the winter roosting and summer nesting areas are located, especially because these areas are so small (about 0.6%) in comparison to the entire county coastline; 2) get them to reduce or eliminate beach grooming and wrack removal in these nesting and roosting areas; 3) set aside areas near winter roosting locations where native beach plants can re-establish themselves (they do it naturally); 4) stop issuing permits for dog parks, volleyball courts and beach parties in the nesting and roosting areas.

Nearly all changes suggested above merely ask that humans cease from doing harm, rather than doing something costly and proactive.

Beach crowd near orange fence surrounding nest, Malibu
(Grace Murayama 5-12-17)

Snowy Plovers incubate their eggs for 27-28 days (rarely as short as 25 days or as long as 32 days). The young are born precocial and quickly begin following the parent(s) for protection and to find the sources for their own food. With Western Snowy Plovers, the female generally abandons the young within 6 days and flies elsewhere to nest with another male, while the male stays with the young for an additional 23-41 days.

RR:BB waits on nest for male to take over incubation, Malibu
(Grace Murayama 5-12-17)

Snowy Plovers incubate their eggs for 27-28 days (occasionally 25-32 days). The young are born precocial and quickly begin following the parent(s) for protection and to find their own food. With Western Snowy Plovers, the female generally abandons the young within 6 days and flies elsewhere to nest with another male, while the male stays with the young for an additional 23-41 days.

Link to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 5/8/17 news release on Snowy Plovers nesting in Los Angeles County.

Male approaching nest, Malibu (Larry Loeher 5-12-17)

Northern Santa Monica Beach
(L.A. Nest #1) On April 18, 2017, a nest with three eggs was found within the Bay Foundation’s beach restoration area. On 4/24/17 Tom Ryan and Chris Dellith from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service placed a protective metal cage-like enclosure around the nest in order to fend off predators, dogs and people. An unusually strong wind came up on 4/27 and continued for four days. The birds stopped incubating by 4/28 and by 4/30 the nest was covered by sand and abandoned.

Dad & 3 chicks (2 are under dad) on Dockweiler Beach
(Grace Murayama 5-14-17)

Northern Dockweiler Beach
(L.A. Nest #2) A nest was discovered on April 27, 2017. On 5/12, two chicks hatched, and a third on 5/13/17. [As incubation usually takes 27-28 days, the eggs must have been laid around April 14-16.]

Dad & 3 chicks (1 is hidden under dad) on Dockweiler Beach
(Grace Murayama 5-14-17)

(L.A. Nest #5) A second nest was discovered by a volunteer SNPL monitor on 5/12/17. The parents are still incubating the eggs.

Dad & 1 of 3 chicks on Dockweiler Beach (Grace Murayama 5-14-17)

(L.A. Nest #2, a few days later) On 5/15/17, the three chicks, now three days old, were seen being eaten by a Ring-billed Gull, all within a 15-minute period. [It should be noted that 90-95% of birds of all species die within their first year, including while they were still in the egg.]

Gull eats 3-day old Snowy Plover chick as parent watches, Dockweiler Beach
(Robert Jeffers 5-15-17)

Malibu Lagoon (Surfrider Beach)
(L.A. Nest #3) A nest was discovered on April 28, 2017 within the area enclosed by the “virtual fence” – consisting of posts, rope and signs – among sticks, gravel, sand and a few plants. A protective metal enclosure was soon installed. On 5/5/17, Fish & Wildlife personnel found the nest to be abandoned, no sign of the eggs, and unexplained prying open of one corner of the metal enclosure.

Male settling on nest, Malibu (Larry Loeher 5-12-17)

(L.A. Nest #4) A second nest containing two eggs, this time about 12-15 meters outside the the virtual fenced area, was discovered on 5/4/17 by SMBAS members Grace Murayama and Larry Loeher. The parent birds proved to be our long-term winter resident banded female rr:bb (banded at Oceano Dunes, CA central coast, summer’16), and an unbanded male. (See sighting history of rr;bb here by scrolling down). They contacted Stacey Vigallon of the L.A. County SNPL Conservation Project, then Danielle LeFer of California State Parks (CSP) while Stacey contacted biologist Tom Ryan. Danielle, Grace, Larry, Jamie King and one other person from CSP installed additional fencing around the nesting area. Jamie was elected to slog through the mucky lagoon bottom and pull up the previously placed virtual fence polls. The following day (5/5/17) a protective metal enclosure was installed around the nest by Fish & Wildlife personnel and SMBAS member Lu Plauzoles, and they reported the presence of two eggs. On 5/14/17, volunteer Laurel Hoctor Jones reported that the nest now contained three eggs; apparently the 3rd egg was laid between 5/4 and 5/14 (most likely, in my opinion, on 5/5 after the metal enclosure was placed). As of 5/19, the birds were still taking turns sitting on the eggs.

RR:BB out stretching her legs while male incubates eggs, Malibu
(Grace Murayama_5-12-17)

We hope that now that you know the Snowies are there, and why they’re there, you too will come to appreciate them and watch out for them. They need your concern.
[Chuck Almdale]

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie Clark permalink
    May 21, 2017 7:55 am

    Thanks, Chuck, this is fantastic news! I visited the Santa Monica Audubon website but don’t see a donation button — i don’t live anywhere near you all so can’t physically help.



    • Chukar permalink*
      May 21, 2017 11:40 am

      Thank you for your donation. The L.A. County Snowy Plover Conservation Project REALLY NEEDS additional funding RIGHT NOW, and for the immediate future.
      By using the “DONATE TO OR JOIN SMBAS” area near the top right of the blog (any page), you can donate to SMBAS anytime – using PayPal or Credit Card.
      Follow the instructions and include the phrase “Snowy Plovers” in the “+Add special instructions to the seller” area.
      We guarantee that 100% of your Snowy Plover donation will go to support the project.
      — Chuck Almdale


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