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Plover Lovers, Bird Nerds, and Wildlife Fans Celebrate: Little Plover Making a Big Comeback

By Dan Elbert/USFWS Biologist

With the chill of fall in the air and the cheer of sports fans in the air, there is one more reason to celebrate this season – the tiny Western snowy plover is smashing population records in a big way.  

Photo: Wester Snowy Plover chicks with eggshells on sand, Credit: Credit:  B. Casler/USFWS

Records crumble

Records began to crumble in January when 232 snowy plovers were counted on the Oregon coast during the annual Winter Window Survey; an increase of approximately 17 percent over the previous high count of 199 the previous year. 

Plover monitors from the Oregon Biodiversity Information Center observed the earliest hatch date (April 17) and fledging date (May 21) ever for the Oregon coast.  History has shown that when nests and broods are successful early in the breeding period, adults are able to attempt secondary and tertiary nests during the lengthy 6-month breeding period and rear multiple broods.  Consequently, productivity rates can sky-rocket under ideal conditions. 

Preliminary data indicate that more than 300 adult snowy plovers were present on the Oregon coast in 2014, approximately 350 nests were monitored, of which about 210 hatched (60% nest success rate).  Only 93 of 381 snowy plover nests hatched last year  (24% nest success rate).  Even more impressive than 210 nests hatching (another Oregon coast first by the way), were the 270 or more chicks that successfully fledged in 2014- shattering the previous record of 180 chicks that fledged in 2012.

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