The Western Snowy Plover (Plover) is a small shorebird that can be found along the Pacific Coast from Baja California to Washington. Since 1993, the Plover has been listed as a “threatened” species and is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). A population of Plover’s live on the Balboa Peninsula, between B Street and the Wedge (a distance of over one mile), for a majority of the year. Under the ESA, the area between B Street to G Street, is designated a “critical habitat” area by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Critical habitat “is a term in the ESA that identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species, and which may require special management considerations or protection” (USFWS). Management and protection of the critical habitat area is an important part of the USFWS’s recovery plan that aims to increase the Plover’s population and meet specific criteria to one day remove them from the endangered species list.
The City initiated management of the area in 2009. These efforts included monitoring the designated critical habitat area and installing fencing between D and E Streets in 2010 and installing additional fencing between E and F Streets in 2017. Fencing helps to delineate and recognize the critical habitat area to help minimize and protect the area from pets, human activities and vehicle use.
Figure 1 below provides the average daily sighting of Plovers over the past seven seasons. The pattern shows that the Plover’s population has grown, in average, since 2009. Over the last few years (2015 and 2016) there has been a slight drop in the population Staff believes this is partly due to the limited ability to monitor the area as often as we had previously and we are currently monitoring the area.
The City is in the process of evaluating alternative methods to ensure the management efforts are effective in protecting the Plovers. Alternative methods being considered for habitat protection include modification of the fence structure, additional or improved signage, heighten enforcement of the leash law, and improved coordination with the City’s maintenance and lifeguard divisions to ensure equipment does not access the area. The City has also retained a team of biologists with Dudek Environmental Consulting to assist in evaluating the protection measures and to develop a comprehensive management plan for protecting the Plovers in the critical habitat area.
California Coastal Commission
Any modification of the fencing requires approval from the California Coastal Commission. In June 2017, two applications were submitted, one to immediately remove the newest fence (CDP Application New Fence) and the other to remove the older fence in September (after the nesting season) (CDP Application Old Fence). The Coastal Commission staff has deemed both applications incomplete (notice of incomplete application) at this time and indicated the need for a management plan for the ongoing protection of the Plovers in the critical habitat area. The plan under development by Dudek will satisfy this requirement and will include the identification of existing resources (including vegetation and sand dune formations), native plant restoration, invasive plant removal, final success criteria, provisions for monitoring, provisions for submission of annual reports of monitoring results, and a project alternative(s) analysis.
- Draft Comprehensive Management Plan
- Public Outreach
- Resubmittal to California Coastal Commission
Western Snowy Plover Fun Facts
- Small Shorebird distinguished from other plovers by its small size, pale brown upper parts, dark patches on either side of the upper breast, and dark gray-blackish legs.
- Scientific name is Charadrius nivosus nivosus
- Weighs only 1.2-2 oz and is only 5.9- to 6.6-inches long
- Length: 15-17 cm (5.9 to6.6 inches)
- Lifespan, on average, only three years but a banded bird was found to have lived 15 years
- Adults begin breeding at one year or older
- Baby chicks can fly away from the nest, also known as fledging, between 28-33 days.
- Visual foragers, using the run-stop-peck method.
- Feeds on invertebrates like crustaceans and mollusks, marine worms, along with insects.
- Food is located in the sand (dry and wet at the shore), in wrack (dead seaweed debris on shore)
- Flock in groups as small as five or less to over 100.
- Settle and congregate, also known as roosting, in mid-beach or fore-dunes area in scrapes.