‘Against All Odds,’ Tiny Shorebirds Nest on L.A. County Beaches for 1st Time Since 1949

Western snowy plovers are seen at Malibu Lagoon State Beach on April 29, 2107. (Credit: Chris Dellith/USFWS)

A tiny, threatened shorebird that hasn’t nested along the Los Angeles County coastline in nearly 70 years has been spotted making a home for its young on the sand in four different locations.

The first western snowy plover nest was spotted April 18 in Santa Monica State Beach, prompting federal scientists to install wire cages to protect the delicate creation from humans and natural predators.

A western snowy plover builds a nest in L.A. County. (Credit: Video by Michael Love and Elliot Lowndes/USFWS)

Since then, plover nests have been found at Dockweiler State Beach and Malibu Lagoon State Beach. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the discoveries Monday.

“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 Chris Dellith, a senior biologist with the service’s Ventura office.

The birds, the subject of a long-running multi-agency recovery effort, build their nests right on the sand in small depressions nearly coastal waters.

Plovers weigh up to 2 oz. and are about 6 inches long. They were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993, when the California population was estimated at 1,300 adults. Last year, that had grown to about 1,800 adults.

A western snowy plover sits atop a nest inside a mini-exclosure on Santa Monica State Beach on April 27, 2017. (Credit: Chris Dellith/USFWS)

Though the birds come to Los Angeles County in winter to roost, no plover nest has been spotted in the county since 1949, the service said in a news release.

Of the four nests discovered in recent weeks, one was lost due to high winds and another for “unknown reasons,” the service said. The two surviving nests are at Malibu Lagoon and Dockweiler.

Because the birds are nesting in popular ocean areas, the wildlife service issued the following guidelines to the beachgoing public:

  • Respect posted signage and fencing that identifies nesting areas.
  • Keep your distance from western snowy plovers to avoid disturbing them. Adult plovers will sometimes use a broken wing display to distract predators away from chicks. If you observe what appears to be an injured adult or chicks lying on the ground, do not attempt to capture the adult or pick the chicks up. Back away and let the adults return to tend their chicks.
  • When walking along the beach, stay on the wet hard-packed sand. The plovers use this area less than the upper part of the beach.
  • As a reminder, dogs are not allowed on state beaches in Los Angeles County. Please adhere to local beach rules and regulations regarding dogs and always keep your dog on a leash to prevent nesting western snowy plovers from abandoning their nests.
  • Take trash with you when you leave, or place in covered trash bins.