Check our Stewardship News for the latest plover updates!
The western snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus) is a small shorebird, about the size of a sparrow, that lives on our sandy beaches. Their cryptic coloration helps them blend in against the beach - can you spot the plovers in the picture above? Key field marks are the black bar on their forehead and dark patches behind the eye and on the neck. The Pacific Coast population has declined precipitously from it's historical numbers, and is listed as threatened by Oregon and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Share the Beach
Western snowy plovers live on the same sandy beaches where many Oregonians recreate. Plovers forage among the wrack line and nest in the dry sand with little to no vegetation cover. Well-camouflaged, snowy plovers often crouch in depressions in the sand or hide behind driftwood to shelter from the rough ocean winds. With the invasion of European beach grass, our Oregon beaches are getting more and more narrow, pushing recreationists and plovers into tight proximity. It can be hard for the little birds to raise their young amidst people and dogs at play. Three main factors threaten their survival.
Changes to traditional sandy nesting areas on the beaches mean that plovers have lost the places that they need to live, feed, and raise their young.
Predators—some native, some introduced by people—take more plovers than are replaced by natural reproduction.
When plovers are nesting, feeding and raising their young, they have a harder time surviving if people harm or disturb them.
To help the plover survive and recover, all three forces—habitat, predators and people—are part of the solution. Please help these birds by respecting their nesting areas while you enjoy the the beach.
OPRD and the Plover
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is legally responsible for recreation on the Ocean Shore. Our mission balances the public's right to enjoy the natural resources and the need to protect those natural resources for all the future.
Management of the Ocean Shore could negatively affect the snowy plovers that live there, which would be considered take as defined under both state and federal Endangered Species Acts. "Take" describes anything that harms a protected species. Obvious acts like killing or injuring a plover are considered take, but so are not-so-obvious things like chasing, interrupting feeding, or scaring birds off nests. Take doesn't have to be intentional to be serious; it can be an accident.
To protect both the plover and the public's recreational access to Oregon's beaches, OPRD developed the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) with the Federal United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The HCP provides a balanced roadmap for both people and plovers to share the beach. The HCP concentrates plover recovery actions to 16 areas on the coast.
Snowy Plover Management Areas
There are five OPRD-managed Snowy Plover Management Areas (SPMAs) in Oregon.
Bandon, Bandon State Natural Area -
final site management plan
Clatsop Spit, Fort Stevens State Park
Necanicum Spit, Gearhart Ocean State Recreation Area
Nehalem Spit, Nehalem Bay State Park
Netarts Spit, Cape Lookout State Park - currently unmanaged
In addition, there are 11 areas on the Ocean Shore called Recreation Management Areas (RMAs). These areas front lands owned by other agencies or private citizens that may provide suitable nesting habitat.
OPRD and its partners enact seasonal recreation restrictions in SPMAs and RMAs to protect plover nesting. Keep in mind that only part of the beach is affected - the dry sand above the high tide line is set aside to either help nesting plovers, or to encourage them to start nesting. The wet sand still remains open to pedestrian and equestrian use. Dogs, vehicles, and kites are prohibited on SPMAs and RMAs with active nesting during the seasonal restriction. These activities are too risky to the birds; however, there are many beaches adjacent to the plover areas where
2013 Recreation Restrictions
Seasonal recreation restrictions are based on the status of the SPMA or RMA. Management areas where snowy plovers have exhibited breeding behavior are considered occupied; areas that may attract snowy plovers are considered unoccupied.
Occupied SPMAS and RMAS
Restrictions active from March 15 - September 15
Dogs, kites, and vehicles prohibited; pedestrians and equestirans wet sand access only
- Baker Beach RMA (USFS)
- Sutton Beach RMA (USFS)
- Siltcoos RMA (USFS)
- Dunes Overlook RMA (USFS)
- Tahkenitch RMA (USFS)
- Tenmile RMA (USFS)
- Coos Bay North Spit RMA (BLM and ACOE)
- Bandon SPMA
- New River/Floras Lake RMA
Unoccupied SPMAS and RMAS
Restrictions active from March 15 - July 15
Voluntarily leash dogs and avoid dry sandy areas.
Clatsop Spit SPMA
Necanicum Spit SPMA
Nehalem Spit SPMA