Western Snowy Plover

The coastal population of the western snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) was listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1993. In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a cooperative plan for recovery of the Pacific Coast population of the western snowy plover, which guides our management of plove habitat.

Sharing the Beach

Photo of a single snowy plover in the sandThe western snowy plover spends its entire life on the beaches of Washington, Oregon, California, and the Baja peninsula. In recent years due to recovery efforts, the population has increased in Oregon and ranged from 30 to 604 adults since 1993.

We work collaboratively with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, and others to protect western snowy plover breeding and nesting habitat, educate ocean shore visitors, and monitor reproductive success, and public compliance with seasonal restrictions.

As their populations have increased in Oregon, nesting snowy plovers can now be found in many coastal counties. Nesting is not always successful, particularly where habitat conditions are marginal and recovery efforts are limited. Most of the western snowy plover population nests along the central and south coast, where they have been most successful in raising chicks to adulthood. 

The Siuslaw National Forest and Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area are home to about half of the central coast population of snowy plover. In partnership with Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, we put in place seasonal restrictions on beach and dune activities within Snowy Plover Management Areas to protect sensitive nesting areas. These nesting season restrictions affect a small proportion of Oregon beaches and are an important part of plover recovery efforts.

What Does Nesting Season Mean For Beachgoers?

Plover nest on beach - a hollowed out area with 3 spotted eggsDuring the breeding season between March 15 and Sept. 15, dry sand beach areas (both inside and outside of roped off areas) are closed to entry to help protect the plovers during the critical nesting season. Snowy plovers lay their eggs in small depressions on open sand and rely on camouflage for protection. If the birds are disturbed by people, leashed or unleashed dogs, kites, or drones - all of which they perceive as predators - they may fly away from their nest, putting their eggs or young at risk. 

To protect nesting birds, it is important for beachgoers to pay attention to signs identifying what types of beach activities are permitted and what areas are open. Western snowy plover nesting areas are clearly marked where seasonal recreational restrictions are in place.

See detailed information about seasonal restrictions here.

Protecting the Western Snowy Plover Project Goals

  • Conserve and recover western snowy plover populations in nesting sites occurring on and adjacent to the Forest and Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
  • Strengthen and develop partnerships with organizations and individuals who will participate in restoring western snowy plover habitat and populations.
  • Increase public awareness of the broader, long-range significance of recovery efforts, thereby increasing public compliance to local restrictions.

Three fuzzy snowy plover chicks on the sandProject Status

Recent surveys of the reproductive success of the western snowy plover along the central and southern Oregon Coast indicated that the adult plover population has been increasing since monitoring began in 1990.

What Can I Do to Help?

  • Your vehicle, dog, and even kite may be enough to put eggs and young birds at risk. Make sure you know where the dog friendly beaches are during nesting season. (Map of dog friendly beaches: North Coast Beaches | South Coast Beaches.)
  • Remove any trash with you as trash may attract predators like ravens and crows to the area, where they may make a meal out of a plover egg.
  • Please respect the beach restrictions in nesting areas and read all posted signs carefully.
  • Enjoy beach activities in areas that aren’t home to the snowy plover.
  • On designated plover beaches, remain on the wet sand near the water's edge; do not walk on the dry sand.

Plover Partners

  • Partnerships with other agencies and organizations are central to the success of this project. Learn more about partnership efforts in the western snowy plover recovery effort from the following partners:
  • Oregon Parks and Recreation Department: Western Snowy Plover and the Oregon Coast
  • Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office: Western Snowy Plover

Where Can I Get More Information?

Visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service Western Snowy Plover page.