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Shorebird Protection

Snowy Plover and Least Tern Protection

Snowy Plover ChickOceano Dunes SVRA, a popular OHV park with approximately 1.4 million visitors annually, is an important breeding site for two beach-nesting birds, the federally threatened western snowy plover and the state and federally endangered California least tern.

Each year from March 1 to September 30, approximately 300 acres of the Oceano Dunes SVRA are closed to the public during the breeding season to protect these sensitive birds.

The park staff intensively monitors the nesting and fledging (chicks that survive to fly) success of these two species seven days a week. An effort is made to locate every nest within the park. Since 1998, Oceano Dunes SVRA has attempted to band and search for all chicks that hatch from our site in order to track their movement and survival. In addition to full-time monitoring, Oceano Dunes SVRA management efforts also include:

  1. Maintaining the six-foot "no-climb" fence that surrounds the 300-acre exclosure;
  2. Enhancing nesting habitat with driftwood, wood chips, and least tern shelters for added protection from predators and the elements);
  3. Managing predators;
  4. Monitoring beach invertebrate communities;
  5. Educating park visitors; and
  6.  Enforcing resource protection regulations.

These efforts help in the recovery of the least tern and snowy plover while keeping OHV use and other recreational opportunities available to the public.

Western Snowy Plover Breeding Statistics:
For the five-year period from 2008 through 2012, Oceano Dunes SVRA has maintained an average of 139 breeding adults and has fledged an average of 102 birds per year. The park has also exceeded an average of 1.2 fledgings per breeding male, which is an indicator of population growth.

Snowy Plover Male Brooding

Least TernsCalifornia Least Tern Breeding Statistics:
The California least tern has also achieved strong nest and fledging success at Oceano Dunes SVRA. From 2006 through 2012, the number of breeding adults has ranged from a low of 23 pairs to a high of 55. During this same time period, the site has achieved an average fledging rate in excess of one fledged chick per breeding pair and produced more than 50% of all tern juveniles recorded in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties. Chicks hatched and banded at Oceano Dunes SVRA have returned to successfully nest and fledge young at this site.

For the safety of others around you and wildlife obey the posted 15 MPH speed limit and avoid driving through flocks of birds.

What can I do to help?

Since snowy plover nesting coincides with the busy beach season, there are many things park visitors can do to avoid or minimize impacts on the birds.

  1. Do not approach birds or nests. Avoid prolonged picnicking or sunbathing near plover nesting habitat.
  2. Stay out of fenced or posted habitat areas, and do not approach fencing.
  3. Dogs are prohibited on California State Parks coastal beaches unless specifically authorized. Where dogs are allowed, they must be on a leash.
  4. Do not light fires or camp on the beach except in designated areas.
  5. Dispose of garbage properly to avoid attracting gulls, ravens and other plover predators. Do not feed any wildlife.
  6. Equestrians must stay out of nesting areas. Observe posted restrictions and stay on wet sand in plover habitat.
  7. Leave kelp and driftwood on the beach; it provides nesting and feeding habitat for snowy plovers.
  8. Do not fly kites, hang glide or toss Frisbees or balls near snowy plover nesting habitat. Fireworks are prohibited. Other activities causing disturbance may also be restricted.
  9. Please report to park staff any nests, threats or disturbances to plovers.