Our Work Protecting the Threatened Western Snowy Plover
The Western Snowy Plover is a small shorebird found only in California, Oregon, Washington, and Baja California, Mexico. These little shorebirds face major threats in today’s changing world, including habitat loss and disturbance, natural and introduced predators, and the effects of oil spills and since 1993, they have been listed as a federally threatened species due to their decreasing population numbers.
When it comes to birds of conservation concern like the Western Snowy Plover, each individual is critically important. At International Bird Rescue, we have cared for 44 Western Snowy Plovers since we opened our San Francisco Bay-Delta and Los Angeles wildlife centers in the early 2000s. More than half of these birds came into our care in just the last two years.
In October of 2021, 125,000 gallons of oil spilled off the coast of Southern California. Bird Rescue responded alongside other members of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network to help mitigate the impact on wildlife – including the local Western Snowy Plover populations. Thanks to Bird Rescue’s previous experience raising plover chicks, technicians were able to provide the critical care needed to stabilize, wash and condition these patients in order to get them on the road to release. Creating a comfortable environment made all the difference for the plovers recovering from the effects of contamination and other injuries.
Once Western Snowy Plovers are ready to leave our care, we coordinate with local biologists to band, release, and monitor the birds. Some of the plover patients at our Los Angeles wildlife center are brought to Coal Oil Point Reserve where over 200 Western Snowy Plovers spend the winter. Biologists monitor the plover population at this critical habitat year-round.
Up north at our center in Fairfield, the Western Snowy Plovers are released in partnership with the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory. Their team has been working to study and conserve Western Snowy Plover populations in the Bay Area since 2003.
Even Snowy Plovers with injuries too severe to return to the wild can play an important role in species conservation. In 2020, we teamed up with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to place a Western Snowy Plover that was unfit for release. There, this bird serves as an ambassador for its species and acts as a surrogate parent for orphaned Snowy Plover chicks hatched at the aquarium.
Through these continued partnerships, we hope to protect this species for generations to come.