Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus
These tiny, delicate-looking birds could pass almost unnoticed by someone walking along the sandy shores of Oregon. In fact, their diminutive size and fragility is one of the reasons that the Western Snowy Plover is perhaps the best known of Oregon’s threatened bird species. The Plover will dig shallow nests on the coastal dunes just above the high tide line. But the encroachment of European beachgrass, an invasive species, and disturbances by people using the shores for recreation have limited the areas where the birds can nest and have sharply reduced their numbers.
Today, carefully precautions are in place during the Plover’s breeding season, including closing some beaches to all human visitation and protecting the nests with specially-designed cages. In some places, Fish and Game authorities, scientists and volunteers are removing the European beachgrass to provide more breeding habitat to the bird. As a result of these efforts, the Plover’s numbers are slowly rising, but are still in need of additional help to make a full recovery.
Plovers rarely grow longer than six inches (15 cm) in length and weigh a mere 1.5 to 2 ounces (42.5 to 56 g). The bird is pale brown on its upper body with dark patches on either side of the breast.
These small birds nest in the coastal dunes all along the shoreline of Washington, Oregon and northern California.