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Reprise 15: Western Snowy Plovers on the Beach

May 13, 2020

Editor’s Note: Entry number fifteen in our tenth anniversary tour was never a blog (i.e. emailed to readers). These two related public service information pages were created in October 2012, accessible only by visiting the blog, yet is our seventh most popular page or blog. It began as an effort to document all the banded Western Snowy Plovers in Los Angeles County, including their origins. After a great deal of work we were nearly caught up when things fell apart: personnel at Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now Point Blue) changed, their method of keeping their historical records changed, the entire banding code system changed, and communication with everyone involved became far more difficult. In late 2018 work on it stalled; we hope to soon re-edit it and bring it up to date. What you find below are snippets of information; there is much more on the permanent pages (Banded WSPs, WSP History) on the blogsite.
[Chuck Almdale]


It all starts with a banded chick in hand


KO:BR banded Summer 2013 at Eden Landing
San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (photo: Karine Tokatlian)

A rogue’s gallery of banded Snowy Plovers
seen in Los Angeles County (60 photos)

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Snowy Plover band color hart from Point Blue

Snowy Plover leg band color chart from Point Blue

Directions for use on flip side

Instructions for use on flip side of chart



Data Order: Band Combo, location & date banded, additional comments, locations seen followed by dates for each location. Dates are in sequential order, with location changes noted.
Example: Zuma (next two dates are for Zuma) 10/18/15, 10/21/15, Malibu (new location for next 3 dates) 10/22/15, 10/23/15, 10/24/15, Zuma (back to Zuma for next 3 dates) 10/28/15, 10/29/15, 11/10/15
METAL: As yet unidentified Gov’t Agency numbered band
Read Bands: Left Top, Left Bottom: Right Top, Right Bottom
* Photograph of this bird on this date is in the slide show
X or x – No band or no 2nd band, either fell off or never present
/ – As in R/O/R – denotes “split” band, one narrow color overlaying wider color; can be double R/O or triple R/O/R

aa:bl – Ft. Ord 2016 – Malibu 8/28/16, *9/6/16, 9/11/16, 9/25/16, *10/12/16, 10/23/16, 11/15/16, 12/9/16, 12/25/16, 1/02/17, 1/17/17, 1/26/17, 1/31/17, 2/8/17, Zuma 2/22/17, 2/26/17, Malibu 9/29/17, 10/22/17, 10/27/17, 11/24/17, Zuma Beach 12/2/17, Malibu 1/26/18, Zuma 2/2/18, 2/16/18, 10/3/18, 10/12/18,

BN:RW [If BN:RW, Great Salt Lake¹] Later changed to NW:OW or NW:RW below, Vandenberg 2016

BO:AA or WW – ?? – Cabrillo Beach *8/23/10

Bp:ow.3 – [B = anodized Blue band above left leg joint; w.3 = white band with “3” on band] Coronado Naval Base San Diego hatched 5/12/17, fledged 6/11/17 – Zuma *9/29/17

BW:WW – Oceano Dunes¹ 2014 – Malibu *9/17/14, 9/24/14, 9/28/14, 10/3/14, 10/26/14,

ga:oy – Oceano Dunes¹ 2014, 2 chicks banded – Malibu 9/28/14, *10/3/14, 10/26/14, 12/28/14, *1/25/15; one nested Bolsa Chica 2015 fledged 6 chicks, the other nested Coal Oil Point Sta Barbara Co.; 3 more chicks banded GA:OY Oceano Dunes 2015 due to lack of bands; Malibu 9/27/15, 10/25/15, *11/22/15, *12/5/15, 1/19/16; nested Bolsa Chica 2016 fledged 3 chicks; 2 GA:OY banded birds – likely 2015 fledges – nested Oceano Dunes 2016; Malibu 7/24/16, 7/27/16, 8/5/16, 8/17/16, 8/28/16, 9/6/16, 9/11/16, 9/22/16, 10/13/16, Bolsa Chica 12/7/16, Malibu 12/9/16, 12/25/16, 1/2/17, 1/11/17, Bolsa Chica female 1/14/17, 1/27/17, 1/31/17, 2/7/17, 2/8/17, 2/28/17, Malibu 7/23/17, 7/28/17,

NR:NR – Band originally used Vandenberg AFB¹ 2013 on 3 chicks, birds not seen since 2013 until the following Malibu sightings of adult bird with no metal exposed on lower left R band – Malibu *7/4/16, 7/16/16; combo reused Vandenberg AFB 2016 on multiple chicks, has metal exposed on the upper and lower portions of lower left R band.

rr:bb – Oceano Dunes¹ 2016 female 1 of 2 chicks – Malibu *9/22/16, *10/12/16, 10/23/16, 12/9/16, 12/25/16, 1/17/17, 1/26/17, 1/31/17, Zuma Beach 2/22/17, 2/26/17, 3/7/17, Malibu 4/7/17, 4/23/17 (female), 5/4/17* on eggs, 5/12/17 on eggs, 5/19/17 on eggs, 5/22/17 on eggs, 5/26/16 on eggs, 5/28/17, 9/9/17, 9/15/17, 9/20/17, 9/24/17, 9/29/17, 10/22/17, 11/10/17, 11/24/17, 12/2/17, 12/24/17,
*5/4/17 rr:bb discovered mated and nesting (2 eggs) on Malibu Beach

W/R/W:R – Bandon Beach Coos County Ore, 2 banded 6/18/11 & fledged²; left leg is a “triple-striper” band, – Santa Monica *02/04/12

Yy:ob – Monterey Bay Moss Landing female banded 7/18/18. Yy means yellow above ankle & below – Zuma 10/3/18, 10/12/18,

Another 30 band combinations are listed on the blog page.

Lead photo on the Slide Show page
KO:BR – Chick banded Summer 2013 Eden Landing SFBO, not seen in LA County

AR:AP – North Marina, 2001 – Male – Zuma 01/04/02, 02/06/02, 02/22/02, 03/10/02, 03/27/02, 12/02/02 (orig rept as AR:SP S is Silver, P is mottled), 01/04/03, (AR:SP) 02/23/03

AV:RS – Moss Landing Salt Ponds, 2099 (a guess, tape missing) [Unknown combo. All AV on Left at this time were from Monterey Bay & Service Bands on these plovers all were placed on lower Left legs.¹] – Cabrillo 12/24/00

AY:AA – ?? – Malibu 11/28/10, 12/26/10, 2/27/11

AY:RO – Salinas S.B. 2007 – male – Malibu 08/26/07

AY:Yx – [Prob. chick banded New River, Oregon 7/23/04¹] – missing band R leg – Hermosa 01/19/05

Another 52 band combinations are listed on the blog page.

Notations for above two lists:
Orig Rpt –
Originally reported as
Superscript ¹ –
Per communication from Lynne Stenzel 12/15/16
Superscript ² – Per communication from Dave Lauten 1/9/17


  • Washington State
  • Oregon
  • California
    • Humboldt and Mendocino Counties
    • San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory
    • Monterey Bay
    • Oceano Dunes
    • Vandenberg AFB
    • Guadalupe – banding discontinued 2005
    • Chevron – no banding
    • Coal Oil Point Reserve – banding discontinued 2006
    • Bolsa Chica
    • San Diego

nb:gw at Zuma (G. Murayama 2-16-18)

The following seven-part article, written in August, 2012,
first appeared on Malibu Patch, a local blogsite.
It focused on the Snowy Plover winter roosting colony
on Surfrider Beach, adjacent to Malibu Lagoon.
The other six parts can be found here on the blog.

Western Snowy Plover History

Part I – The Birds Themselves
Few people know it, but some very rare birds live on Surfrider Beach. They spend most of their time resting in little hollows in the sand, like the ones your heel makes. Countless people saunter through their flock, never noticing them until they scurry away from underfoot.

Western Snowy Plover adult pair on Surfrider Beach (J. Kenney 3/26/10)

Western Snowy Plovers are small, even for a bird, only 6 ¼” long, much smaller than your foot. Their cryptic gray, brown, white and black plumage blends perfectly into the sandy beach. They’ll crouch for hours, motionless in sandy hollows. They’re hard to see even when searching for them.

Snowies, like all shorebirds, are carnivores; more accurately, insectivores, eating any invertebrate or tiny fish they can find.  Their preferred foraging area is wrack (washed-up sea vegetation) left at the high-tide line, often abundant with kelp flies and small invertebrates.  Their short stubby

1st winter Western Snowy Plover & wrack, Surfrider Beach (J. Kenney 1/31/10)

bills, typical of plovers, are unlike the long and thin bills of sandpipers, who often probe – even underwater – for prey in sand and mud. Snowies don’t; they pick their food from the wrack or sand.

Because they prefer to forage in wrack,

the best feeding time is just after high tide when waves are retreating; wrack is fresh and full of living invertebrates. They will go onto wet sand to forage, but they avoid waves, however small.

Sanderling flock on Surfrider Beach
(J. Kenney 11/29/09)

The flocks of small gray-white-brown birds which rapidly scurry on little black legs, following and fleeing the wavelets as they wash in and out, will almost certainly be Sanderlings. They are slightly larger than Snowies, with long, pointed black bills. They run a lot. They resemble Snowies, feed with Snowies, even roost within Snowy flocks. It takes experience to reliably tell them apart in the field. Found nearly worldwide, Sanderlings are abundant.

Sanderling duo in nonbreeding plumage (J. Kenney 11/19/09)

Snowy Plovers are far from abundant. We’ll discuss that in a later part.

Unlike the “I’m late, I’m late” scurrying of the Sanderlings, Snowies move in a pensive, hesitant, almost thoughtful manner. They take a few steps, 3–15 perhaps, and pause, often with one leg cocked, ready for their next step, whenever they decide to take it.  All of the 67 Plover species walk this way.

By the time the tide begins to rise, they’ve stopped foraging. They rest together in a small area, their roost, slightly inland of the beach berm (high ridge) between the lagoon and ocean, separated by a few inches to a few feet from one another, in small sand hollows they make, find, or improve upon. When it’s quiet with no predators or noisy humans nearby, they may sleep, although at least one lookout stays awake. When feeling frisky, they’ll chase one other around, jumping in and out of each other’s hollows.

Like you and me, Snowies need to rest and recharge their batteries. For millions of years, their lonely, windswept, barren beaches were sufficiently safe and undisturbed places to live, forage and breed. Times have changed.  [Chuck Almdale]

The other six parts of this article can be found here on the blog.

How many Snowies can you find in this picture?
(C. Almdale 3/28/10)

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