Rare Shorebirds Nest on LA Beaches For the First Time in Decades

A rare shorebird is now nesting on beaches where it hasn’t nested for nearly 70 years.

Western snowy plovers are small, inconspicuous shorebirds whose range extends along the Pacific coast from Baja, Calif., all the way to Washington state, but numerous threats ranging from human disturbance, non-native beach grass and predators to habitat degradation and loss have led to a serious population decline.

34344572731_d869785136_zCredit: Chris Dellith/USFWS

They were protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1993, when the population in California was estimated to have dropped to just 1,300 individuals. Since then, their numbers have grown and scientists counted 1,800 of them last year. Now there’s more hope that they may yet make a comeback.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), although these rare birds are known to use beaches in Los Angeles County for roosting during the winter, the last time an active nest was documented in the county was in 1949 at Manhattan Beach.

At the end of April monitors from Los Angeles Audubon and The Bay Foundation found the first nest on Santa Monica State Beach, which was followed by more at Malibu Lagoon State Beach and Dockweiler State Beach.

34537898345_3c7a5f60d9_zCredit: Chris Dellith/USFWS

According to the FWS, the Santa Monica State Beach nest was sadly lost as a result of high winds and one of the Malibu Lagoon State Beach nests was lost for unknown reasons. The remaining two nests remain viable and have since been protected by wire cages to prevent disturbances, and to stop potential predators from getting to the eggs.

34433725136_f3bbd785df_zCredit: Chris Dellith/USFWS

Unfortunately for these little shorebirds, their nesting season, which runs from March to September, coincides with the busiest times for beach use by people.

Officials are asking beachgoers to take a few simple measures to help protect plovers, including respecting signs and areas that are blocked off for nesting, keeping our distance to avoid disturbing them, taking trash with us when we leave and keeping dogs leashed.

34405027181_551fd998e3_zCredit: K. Kughan/USFWS

“This is a sign that, against all odds, western snowy plovers are making a comeback, and we really need the cooperation of beachgoers to help give them the space they need to nest and raise their young,” said senior fish and wildlife biologist Chris Dellith with the FWS Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office. “I’m hopeful that we can find a balance between beach recreation and habitat restoration, which will allow humans and shorebirds like the western snowy plover to peacefully exist along our coastline.”

If you’re interested in volunteering to support efforts to protect western snowy plovers and other shorebirds, check out opportunities with Audubon California.

Photo credit: USFWS

93 comments

Telica R
Telica R1 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Melania P
Melania P4 months ago

They are so pretty!

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ERIKA S
ERIKA S6 months ago

very beautiful birds

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Patricia H
Patricia Harris7 months ago

William Miller, that's wonderful news! it always makes me feel all warm inside to know that not a lot of places are running out of birds.

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Vikram S
Vikram S7 months ago

Thank you.

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william M
william Miller7 months ago

I have more birds in my yard this spring than ever 4 pr of Orioles blue birds, 4 types of wood peckers Finches and so many more

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Jaime J
Jaime J7 months ago

Thank you

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Clare O
Clare O7 months ago

Hope the birds can rear a clutch.

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Clare O
Clare O7 months ago

Thanks, good to see. The trouble is that beaches are being used more and gathering lots more rubbish. Less habitat space.

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