Western Snowy Plover and Least Tern Research
The Western Snowy Plover is a threatened shorebird that breeds along the west coast of the U.S. Because of this status, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set goals to restore plover numbers throughout the region. In addition, the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, a 50-year effort to return half of the Bay's salt ponds back to tidal marsh, has also established goals to increase plover numbers in the Bay Area. Since 2003, SFBBO has worked with both of these efforts to study and conserve local plovers.
The California Least Tern is an endangered species that breeds along the California Coast in sparsely vegetated and flat areas located next to the Pacific Ocean. Although their natural habitat is sandy beaches and lagoons, in the San Francisco Bay they have adapted to breed in former salt production ponds, which provide the habitat features California Least Terns need to breed. SFBBO first began working with California Least Terns between 2007-2009, and again in 2017 when they were attracted to habitat enhanced for Snowy Plovers with oyster shells.
We survey salt ponds to locate breeding habitat and monitor plovers to determine nest and fledging success. Each spring our biologists band plover chicks to track their movements and survival, and use remote trail cameras to identify predators such as corvids, gulls, and foxes. In addition, a few community scientists help us conduct winter surveys so we know how plovers use the Bay outside the breeding season, and we enhance plover habitat. We also enlist the help of community science volunteers to monitor Least Terns in the area during the breeding season. If you spot a banded Snowy Plover, please contact Plover Program Director Ben Pearl at email@example.com.
Check out our 2021 Birdy Hour talk by SFBBO Science Director Ben Pearl about Snowy Plover Conservation in the Bay Area!