Oregon beach bound? Seasonal snowy plover protections in effect

A pair of western snowy on coastal sand

CORVALLIS, Ore.March 23, 2018 — Oregon beachgoers are asked to help recovery efforts for the threatened western snowy plover by respecting nesting areas and beach restrictions during nesting season, March 15 through Sept. 15.

Beachgoers may see signs and ropes that identify sensitive western snowy plover nesting areas. and will need to adhere to any posted restrictions.

Four juvenile western snowy plovers on the sand

Juvenile western snowy plovers at Oregon Dunes, Siuslaw National Forest in an undated photo. USDA Forest Service photo by Adam Kotaich.

These federally protected shorebirds nest on open sand along Oregon’s beaches.

Nests, and especially chicks, are well-camouflaged.

During nesting season, human disturbances can flush adult plovers away from their nests as they attempt to defend their young from the perceived predator. Left alone too long, eggs or chicks can die from exposure, predators, or people.

“We’re making great strides in reversing the downward slide of this species,” Cindy Burns, wildlife biologist for Siuslaw National Forest, said. “But it takes all of us, so we hope people will do their part to understand nesting season rules and to share the beach this spring and summer.”

Signage for Oregon Dunes Trail and Shorebirds Nesting area. Vehicles, bicycles, camping and dogs are prohibited on the beach March 15 to Sept. 15 annually, and pedestrians are limited to walking on wet sandy areas, only.

Signs warn visitors about restricted activity at a known western snowy plover nesting area on the Oregon Dunes, located in the Siuslaw National Forest in an undated USDA Forest Service photo.

Certain beaches, listed here (Oregon dunes only) and here (coastwide), are known plover nesting areas.

On these beaches, the dry sand and dunes are closed, except along official trails, to protect eggs and chicks.

Visitors may see roped off areas within these plover management areas, which serve to protect the most sensitive habitat; however, all dry sand on both sides of the rope is closed, except on designated trails.

Wet sand areas on the designated beaches remain open to foot and equestrian traffic, but no dogs, kites, drones, camping, bicycles, or motor vehicles are allowed.

Western snowy plover nesting areas collectively comprise only about 40 miles of Oregon’s 362 miles of shoreline, but are spread out along the entire coast.

“Visitors will have access to hundreds of miles of beaches without these seasonal restrictions,” Laurel Hillmann, ocean shores specialist for Oregon State Parks, said. “By planning your trip, you can enjoy the coast and help keep this sensitive bird safe.”

A nest of brown-speckled snowy plover eggs is difficult to see, even while almost entirely exposed on a sandy beach, surrounded by coastal vegetation.

A western snowy plover nests can be extremely difficult to see on the dry sandy beaches where the shorebird nests, as seen in this undated photo. Chicks reach fledgling age about one month after hatching. National Park Service photo.

Visitors to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area are encouraged to review this map to identify unrestricted recreation areas.

Information on riding motor vehicles on the sand can be found here.

Information about what Oregon coast beaches are open to dogs is available here.

The western snowy plover is a federally protected shorebird.

Nesting areas within the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area include the following (signs are posted at all nesting beach access points):

  • Baker/Sutton beaches
  • Siltcoos estuary south to within a ½ mile of Sparrow Park Road, which includes:
    • Oregon Dunes Day Use beach
    • Tahkenitch Creek estuary
  • Ten Mile Creek estuary, starting from ¼ mile south of the Douglas/Coos County line to the Coast Guard south off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail

Detailed information about nesting restrictions and site locations, as well as links to resources from Oregon State Parks, can be found on the Siuslaw website at www.fs.usda.gov/siuslaw.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed western snowy plovers as a threatened species in 1993. Habitat loss from invasive plants, as well as human disturbances, including litter and discarded food scraps that attract predators, have contributed to the birds’ decline.

The Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative is working with land managers to develop and implement a restoration strategy as well as raise public awareness about the need to restore the dunes ecosystem for snowy plover, rare plants and animals, and the unique recreation opportunities offered here.

By Lisa Romano, USDA Forest Service – Siuslaw National Forest
and
Laurel Hillman, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

A western snowy plover stands on the sand

The western snowy plover 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. During the breeding season (March through September), plovers can be seen nesting along the shores, peninsulas, offshore islands, bays, estuaries, and rivers of the United States’ Pacific Coast. This undated photo displays a bird in its winter plumage. US Fish and Wildlife Service photo.

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