Protective Fencing for Snowy Plovers Goes up on Dockweiler Beach

A joint effort offers the threatened species a chance of recovery.

How such a tiny creature can project charisma that a Hollywood star would envy is beyond me, but I know grown men who wish they could keep them in their bath tubs. I’ve seen adolescents swoon at their first sight of them. I know elementary kids fighting for them. What are they? Snowy Plovers, a tiny shore bird that calls the beaches of our west coast home. Due to habitat loss through various impacts on our beaches, the Plovers are a threatened species. In fact the last breeding pair on a Los Angeles County beach was recorded in 1949.

Volunteers looking at Plovers Photo by: Lisa Fimiani

Image Snowy Plovers call the beach home: They sleep on the beach. They eat on the beach (they like the bugs that break kelp down). They hunker down in rain and wind in little depressions on the beach. They even lay their eggs on the beach. That’s right! No nest in a tree or bush or rocky cliff for them. They scratch a little divot in the sand, appropriately called a “scrape”, and lay their eggs right on the beach! The eggs are so well camouflaged and look so much like the sand they rest on that you wouldn’t see them until you nearly step on them.

  A three-year effort to identify where Snowy Plovers like to roost (hang out) on LA County beaches and determine measures to protect those areas, has paid off. Plovers like to hang out on very specific beaches in LA, one of them being Dockweiler Beach at the end of LAX. In early January, the County Department of Beaches and Harbors erected a protective fence at the Dockweiler Plover roost, a very positive step in helping the birds recover. The fence, made of orange plastic mesh, is 100 feet deep and 300 feet long and is horse-shoed shaped, with an opening to the ocean.  Its intent is to keep people, vehicles, dogs, etc., out of that space the Plovers are calling home on Dockweiler.

Volunteers working in the enclosure Photo by: Lisa Fimiani

Image On Saturday, January 24th, a group of volunteers descended on the Dockweiler roost to rid it of trash and debris that recent winter storms had hurled there. Armed with a permit from the County to enter the enclosure, the group spent two hours house keeping in the company of 25 Plovers! Yes, the little creatures were resting in the sun in the enclosure!

The volunteers removed bags of plastic debris including Styrofoam food packaging, ball point pens, cigarette butts and the like. The most curious aspect was the number of plastic cigar tips in the sand.

The good news: lots of kelp had washed into the enclosure, ensuring that Plovers had a food source pretty handy, and, magically, the rains of last week helped sprout a number of beach plants!

Thanks to all the partners who have worked so long on Snowy Plover protection: the US Fish and Wildlife Service; California Department of Fish and Game, Los Angeles  County Department of Beaches and Harbors; Santa Monica, Palos Verdes/South Bay, and Los Angeles Audubon Societies; and, biologist Tom Ryan of Ryan Ecological Consulting.

If you’d like to get involved in Snowy Plover conservation, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mom and chick Photo by: Callie Bowdish

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