10 March, 2021 By Kristen Rosamond and Nico Arcilla
Snowy Plover wintering on Carmel River State Beach, California
California is known for its spectacular coastline, which attracts flocks of locals and tourists alike. However, with the rush of public recreation, flocks of another type are often overlooked – shorebirds! Western Snowy Plovers inhabit many beaches along the California coast, which they use both as nesting and wintering locations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the Pacific coast population of Snowy Plovers as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Another shorebird species that inhabits rocky outcrops of the California coast, Black Oystercatchers, have been designated as a Federal Species of Concern. Despite the demonstrated need to protect these species, many beach goers in places such as Monterey Bay are completely unaware of the shorebirds on the coast, making education an important first step to protecting these fascinating but vulnerable birds. IBCP plans to contribute to shorebird conservation by working to increase signage in the Monterey Peninsula that informs people visiting coastal areas about the presence of these shorebird species, as well as the importance of keeping their distance from nesting and roosting areas and keeping their dogs on leashes.
Young Black Oystercatcher foraging on rocky coastline along Monterey Bay, California
In addition to wild predators such as raptors, ravens, and gulls, some of the biggest threats to shorebirds include interference from humans and off-leash dogs. Humans and dogs disturb roosting plovers, and their presence has even been noted to decrease their feeding rates, especially on public, unprotected beaches. California State Parks and Point Blue Conservation Science monitor and protect Snowy Plovers, while Audubon California and the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History monitor and protect Black Oystercatchers. Building on these important long-term efforts in Monterey Bay, IBCP hopes that increasing awareness of these birds will inspire more people to become interested and invested in shorebirds’ well-being and dedicated to sharing our shores. California’s coast is not only incredibly beautiful, but also critically important to the life cycles of Snowy Plovers, Black Oystercatchers, and many other species. The more we work to protect them, the more we can learn about these amazing birds that make the world around us all the more beautiful.
Temporary Snowy Plover conservation sign installed at Carmel River State Beach