A researcher from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and a wildlife biologist for Naval Base Coronado worked together Monday, June 22 to track snowy plover chicks in one of the native nesting sites for this threatened species. The western snowy plover is found on beaches along the Pacific coast from Washington to Baja California.
Naval Base Coronado is committed to providing habitat for the birds that is properly managed so as not to lose military training or conservation value over the long term, and this goal has resulted in site protection and monitoring of the species.
To assist with their conservation efforts, the Navy has hired researchers from San Diego Zoo Global to help monitor the shorebirds and their habitat during their nesting season, March 1 through Sept. 15. During nesting season, researchers look for plover chicks six days a week, which can be quite challenging due to the birds’ nesting habits and their coloring.
Their natural white and tan coloring mimics the sand where they make their nests. The nests are small indentations in the sand, which makes it difficult for researchers to find them, but it also provides camouflage from predators, including crows, ravens and peregrine falcons.
Once the perfectly camouflaged chicks are spotted, the researchers have to catch the chicks. Once caught, the chicks are weighed, measured and given leg bands before being re-released into their native habitat.
Plover parents incubate their eggs for 28 days, but will leave their nests when threatened by people. The snowy plover’s decline is attributed to loss of nesting habitat; habitat degradation caused by expanding beachfront development and recreation; human disturbance; and predation.
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.