2018 Western Snowy Plover Breeding Season Winding Down at Point Reyes

Tiny sand-colored western snowy plover chick standing on the beach with two colored bands on each of its legs.
This newly banded snowy plover chick on Limantour Beach fledged in late July and has remained on the beach ever since.

NPS / Matt Lau

August 2018 - As of August 17th, there were eight western snowy plover chicks still running around on Limantour Beach and North Beach, but no more active nests. 2018 nesting season monitoring revealed a total of 50 nests at the two sites, which is a slight increase from the 46 found in 2017. Limantour Beach continued to be a plover hot spot this year with 15 nests. The stretch of beach between the North Beach parking lot and Abbotts Lagoon hosted 20 nests; the South Beach area three; Kehoe Beach five; and the Abbotts Lagoon restoration area seven.

However, because snowy plovers will re-nest multiple times within a season if previous nests fail, the number of nests that actually hatch chicks are a better measure of success than the total number. This year, only 42% of the nests survived to hatch, compared to 45.7% in 2017.

Furthermore, many plover chicks that did hatch were unable to survive for more than a week. Fledging success (the percent of chicks that survive to 28 days) is 18% so far this year, which is markedly lower than 2017 and 2016 (41.1% and 41.7%, respectively). The average fledging success for the past 22 years was 41.8%. However, if the last eight chicks fledge they will increase the season’s fledging success rate by 16%.

The banding program continues to help illuminate how these Point Reyes plovers fit into the overall Pacific Coast population. This year, a banded male that hatched in the Abbotts Lagoon restoration area in 2016 was found at Ten Mile Beach in Mendocino County where he successfully fledged 3 chicks. This the first time that beach has fledged chicks in over a decade. One of this season’s fledglings from Limantour Beach was also sighted in the bay by San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory biologists.

If you see a snowy plover banded with aqua (on top) and violet (on bottom) on the left leg, then you are looking at a bird that was hatched and raised in Point Reyes National Seashore! Please report these sightings to Matt Lau.

Last updated: August 27, 2018