Snowy Plover Science
The Snowy Plover Recovery Project works towards the recovery of the federally threatened Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) by surveying the salt ponds of the San Francisco Bay to locate breeding habitat. SFBBO biologists monitor plover populations by determining nest and fledging success, identifying nest predators with remote cameras systems, and determining if habitat enhancements help to provide higher quality nesting habitat for Snowy Plovers. The project identifies management actions and works directly with land managers in order to optimize nesting habitat on dry salt ponds and islands. Researching Snowy Plovers and their salt pond habitat is vital to reach the USFWS Recovery Goal of supporting 500 breeding adult plovers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Western Snowy Plovers nest on the dry former salt evaporation ponds in the South Bay, and many nests are lost each year to predators. By improving their breeding habitat on the South Bay Salt Ponds, we’re hoping to reverse that trend. Through this work, we removed many of the posts throughout the ponds that served as perches for predators, removed vegetation that was encroaching on nesting habitat, and spread oyster shells on the pond bottoms in experimental plots. The soil on many of the salt ponds is very dark brown or red, which may make light colored Snowy Plovers adults and nests stand out for predators. By adding other white objects, like oyster shells, to the pond bottoms, we aimed to provide camouflage for plovers and their nests, as well as provide cover for plover chicks to hide near. Drakes Bay Family Farm donated tons of oyster shells to the project.
Our biologists band Western Snowy Plover chicks in the South San Francisco Bay salt ponds to track plover movements and survival in the salt ponds. The chicks received two bands on each leg, giving them their own individual four color combination.
Funding for this program is provided by the California State Coastal Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Coastal Program, and from donations in the community. Partners in this program include the California Department of Fish and Game, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, East Bay Regional Parks District, and Hayward Area Regional Shoreline. Visit our Science Report section see see science reports about this program.
Snowy Plover Volunteer Opportunities
We offer citizen science volunteer opportunities to a limited number of volunteers who help monitor Bay Area plover populations during winter and spring. We also offer opportunities for volunteers to serve as docents who are stationed at South Bay and East Bay trails near plover hot spots and educate hikers who pass by about the status of this threatened species and ways people can help protect them. In addition, we need help from the community in re-sighting banded plovers in the South Bay. Visit our Volunteer section to learn how to volunteer in these actvities.
Snowy Plover Education and Outreach
In addition to conducting science, working with partners, and enhancing plover habitat, the plover team offer science talks as well as bird walks in the field to teach youth and the general the public about plovers and offer hands-on plover science activities at family science and other community events. Visit our Events section to find out how to participate in a plover science talk, bird walk, or youth or family event.