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The western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) is a small shorebird distinguished from other plovers by its small size, pale brown upper parts, dark patches on either side of the upper breast, and dark gray to blackish legs. Snowy plovers weigh between 1.2 and 2 ounces. They are about 5.9 to 6.6 inches long.
Historic records indicate that western snowy plovers nested in at least 29 locations on the Oregon coast. Currently, only eight locations in Oregon support nesting western snowy plovers, a 72 percent reduction in active breeding locations.
As early as the 1970s, observers suspected a decline in plover numbers. The primary cause of decline is loss and degradation of habitat. The introduced European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) contributes to habitat loss by reducing the amount of open, sandy habitat and contributing to steepened beaches and increased habitat for predators. Urban development has reduced the available habitat for western snowy plovers while increasing the intensity of human use, resulting in increased disturbance to nesting plovers.
The public can help in the increase the chance of plover survival and breeding success by:
- Staying out of the signed nesting areas
- "Sharing the beach" by recreating away from plovers and using the wet sand
- Keeping dogs pets on leash or leaving them at home
- Removing litter from beaches to discourage predators
- Flying kites, which may be mistaken for avian predators by plovers, on non-nesting plover beaches
- Volunteering to monitor plovers or to provide educational material to other beach users; and
- Leaving the area immediately and contacting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife if a plover nest is found in an unprotected area