Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Rare Shorebird Chicks Successfully Fledge at Huntington State Beach for First Time in Decades
Four Western snowy plover chicks survive, against the odds, making it to adolescence

July 25, 2018


Joanna Gilkeson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,, 760-473-3954
Jorge Moreno, California State Parks,, 916-653-1986


Three Western snowy plover chicks sitting on the sand at Huntington State Beach.

Western snowy plover chicks at Huntington State Beach. Credit: Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. — For the first time in more than five decades, two pairs of federally threatened Western snowy plovers nested, nurtured and successfully fledged four chicks at one of the most popular public beaches in California - Huntington State Beach in Orange County.

During routine shorebird monitoring in May, California State Parks biologists found a pair of adult plovers with two chicks within Least Tern Natural Preserve, a 12.4 acre segment of protected beach habitat at Huntington State Beach reserved for endangered shorebirds. Two days later, a group of students participating in a beach cleanup discovered a second plover nest on the outskirts of the Preserve.

Biologists, in partnership with volunteer docents from Sea and Sage Audubon, continued to monitor the growing plover chicks. This week they reported all three chicks from the second nest fledged. One chick from the first nest fledged earlier this month.

“Huntington State Beach has not seen this type of Western snowy plover activity in many years,” said California State Parks Orange Coast District Superintendent Todd Lewis. “The hard work of our Natural Resource Management team and volunteer docents is paying off. We are excited that our state beach has a productive population and we will continue our work to provide public access and recreation as well as protection for wildlife, including the Western snowy plover.”

Nestled within a state beach that receives more than two million visitors annually, the Least Tern Natural Preserve provides a safe environment for the federal and state listed endangered California Least Tern along with Western snowy plovers. This habitat is vital to the survival of these species since they require beach habitat to nest and raise their chicks.

“Sea and Sage Audubon has been involved with the Least Tern Natural Preserve since the 1960s and their members are very excited about the news of two successful snowy plover nests this year. It is a wonderful testament to the hard work of the volunteers and biologists involved with protecting these birds. It also showcases the success of sharing our shores with wildlife and the public so both can enjoy this beautiful setting,” said Sea and Sage Audubon Society President Doug Lithgow.

Western snowy plovers once nested along the West Coast from Washington to the U.S./Mexico border. Today, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is the only place in Orange County to host an annual breeding population of plovers. Plovers nest in much higher numbers in central and northern California as well as along the Oregon coast.

“For decades, California State Parks and the Audubon Society have been dedicated to bolstering recovery efforts for the Western snowy plover and the California Least tern at Huntington Beach,” said Mendel Stewart, Field Supervisor for the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office. “We are grateful for our conservation partners and the public and their continued support of these species, whether it’s through docent-led education or management actions like placing protective fencing around active nests. By working together and maintaining the integrity of the Preserve, we can ensure plovers have a place to nest and return to year after year.”

We encourage all beach users to help shorebirds by placing all trash in designated containers to limit attracting predators, following local leash laws, limiting disturbances in and around Preserve boundaries and sharing the shore with wildlife.

The Western snowy plover has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1993. The species was once widespread along the Pacific Coast, from Washington to Baja California but due to unsuccessful nesting as a result of predation, habitat loss, human disturbance and development, the species has seen a steep decline, especially in Southern California.

Images and video of the Western snowy plover families at Huntington State Beach may be found at this link:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit or connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

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Sea and Sage Audubon Society’s mission is to protect birds, other wildlife, and their habitats through education, citizen science, research, and public policy advocacy.



The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

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