Scientific Name: Charadrius alexandrinus
Found at Elkhorn Slough
High intertidal flats, salt ponds
Did you know…
Snowy Plovers lay their eggs directly on bare sand, just above the intertidal zone.
The Snowy Plover is a fluffy, pale, sparrow-sized shorebird. Besides Elkhorn Slough, it is native to the Pacific coast from Washington state to Mexico. It can be identified from other similar shorebirds by the dark patches on the sides of its neck and forehead.
Here at the slough, the Snowy Plover nests in the former salt ponds of Moss Landing Wildlife Area, but is rarely observed foraging on the intertidal sandflat along with the other shorebirds. It eats small invertebrates.
The biggest threat in this region is predation and disturbance during the nesting period. Snowy Plovers lay their eggs directly on the bare sand of beaches, just above the intertidal zone. During the month in which they incubate these eggs on the ground, they are very vulnerable to trampling and disturbance (by humans, dogs, horses, etc.) and to predation (by foxes, raptors, dogs, etc.). All of these threats have increased with increased recreational use of our coastline. For this reason, and due to sharp declines in population sizes, the Snowy Plover is on the USFWS list of threatened species.
Conservation scientists from the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, manage the former salt ponds in the Moss Landing Wildlife Area for the benefit of Snowy Plover nesting. They manage water levels, vegetation, and predators in order to optimize conditions for plover nesting success. While the estuary would not historically served as nesting ground for plovers, the former salt ponds play an important role as a refuge for plovers today, because they are more remote than most beaches in the area.