Published: September 2022
Author(s): Derek W. Stinson
The Pacific coast population of Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus) breeds from Grays Harbor County, Washington, south to Bahia Magdalena, Baja California, Mexico, and winters mainly in coastal areas from southern Washington to Central America. The Snowy Plover is currently state listed as endangered in Washington and a state recovery plan was completed in 1995 (Richardson 1995). The Pacific coast population of the Snowy Plover was listed as threatened by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1993, and a federal recovery plan was completed in 2007 (USFWS 2007). This document updates the information in the 2016 status review.
Snowy Plovers have recently been consistently nesting at 3 sites in Washington, but began nesting at sites both north and south of these areas; in 2020, they nested on beaches at Connor Creek and Copalis Spit for the first time since 1984! In 2019 the population was estimated at 93 adults; 47 were counted in 2020, but some areas were not surveyed due to restrictions on field operations during the COVID pandemic. Factors affecting productivity of Snowy Plovers in Washington include degradation of habitat by introduced beach grasses, human disturbance during the nesting period, and low productivity due to predation on eggs and chicks. In 2013, a new predator management strategy was initiated on Washington nesting beaches that includes direct hazing and occasional removal of crows and ravens, the main nest predators. Predator management appears to have improved reproductive success in Washington and has helped facilitate recovery to the numbers specified in one of the recovery criteria for federal Recovery Unit 1 (Washington & Oregon). Management attention to minimize human disturbance, particularly during days opened for razor clam digging, has also likely helped improve nest success and increase the Washington population.
A population viability analysis suggested that the West Coast population would not reach the objective of 3,000 individuals identified in the federal recovery plan without additional habitat restoration (Hudgens and others 2014). As a result of this need for additional plover habitat, control of beachgrass and management to reduce human disturbance are ongoing.
Although the Snowy Plover population in the region appears to be increasing as a result of management actions in Washington and Oregon, the increase in Washington seems to be due largely to recruitment of birds fledged in Oregon. The number in Washington is still small, and continued intensive management of human disturbance and predators, and habitat restoration are needed. It is recommended that the Snowy Plover remain listed as an endangered species in Washington at this time.
Stinson, D. W. 2022. Periodic status review for the Snowy Plover in Washington. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington. 24 + iii pp.
Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.