NEW SPECIES: Snowy Plover Chick
Jul 20, 2017 09:42AM
● By Paul Spear
NEW SPECIES, An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Snowy Plover Chick
This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Snowy Plover Chick. An inconspicuous, pale little bird, easily overlooked as it runs around on white sand beaches, or on the salt flats around lakes in the arid west. Where it lives on beaches, its nesting attempts are often disrupted by human visitors who fail to notice that they are keeping the bird away from its nest; as a result, the Snowy Plover populations have declined in many coastal regions. Formerly considered to belong to the same species as the Kentish Plover of the Old World.
Snowy Plovers are declining in some areas, especially along Gulf Coast and parts of Pacific Coast, where thet are considered threatened in parts of this range. Human disturbance on beaches often causes failure of nesting attempts. These tiny chicks are now growing up on our Imperial Beach sands near the Tijuana River mouth, and are extremely vulnerable to intrusion by people and dogs allowed to run off leash. Please observe the signs posted there and do not go beyond the rope barriers there.
Snowy Plovers Beaches habitat is on sandy flats. At all seasons, they tend to be found in places where habitat matches the pale color of their backs on dry sand beaches along coast, and on salt pans or alkaline flats in interior. They are usually seen in places with very little vegetation, and not around marshes. They also sometimes forage on open mudflats.
When feeding, they typically run a few steps, then pause, then run again, pecking at the ground whenever they spot something edible. They will sometimes hold one foot forward and shuffle it rapidly over the surface of sand or mud, as if to startle small creatures into moving.
Diet when they leave the nest includes crustaceans, insects, and marine worms. Along the coast, may feed mostly on tiny crustaceans, mollusks, marine worms, and also some insects. At inland sites, diet may be mostly insects, including various flies and beetles.
After mating, females lay 3, sometimes 2, and rarely 4 pale buff, dotted with black eggs. Incubation is by both parents in about 26-32 days. Males usually incubate at night, and females most of day. Downy young leave the nest a few hours after hatching, feeding themselves, and can fly at age of 28-32 days. In some areas, both parents tend their young. In other areas, females may depart in less than 6 days, leaving males to raise their young. Females may then find another mate, and raise another set of young. In these cases, the male from first nest may also find a new mate and renest after the first young have fledged.
Snowy Plovers may nest in loose colonies or as isolated pairs, with sometimes nesting close to tern colonies. This is the case in our own Tijuana Estuary, where they nest with Least Terns. Unlike many shorebirds, males seem to have no aerial display over their territory. Nest sites are on open bare ground, sometimes close to a grass clump or piece of driftwood. Nests are a shallow scrape in the ground, lined with bits of shell, grass, pebbles, and other debris, sometimes surrounded with similar items.
Again, please respect the nesting sites of our local Snowy Plovers while enjoying a beach walk to the Tijuana River mouth. Until next week, good birding!
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