Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Snowy Plover Story

Earlier this year I signed up for Snowy Plover Patrol on our local beaches - since I love birds and the fact that I live close to where the birds are nesting - it was a no-brainer for me. It provides me enjoyment, connections and continued education - what's not to love!
Well, it all starts out with courtship - the male appear to solicit the female by standing and calling. Soon the pair establishes a bond which leads to courtship then copulation. It all begins with the male running to a spot to scrape an area - the female will go, the male steps out and she settles in, scratching with her feet while rotating on her breast. The ritual dance begins with horizontal display after which copulation takes place.

The nest is constructed with lining of bits of debris, pebbles, shell fragments etc. The female lays her eggs - usually 3 buffy colored covered with small spots and scrawls, mostly dark brown to black.
Incubation varies with location and season - usually close to one month. The female incubates during the day, male most of the night.

And it was with great excitement that I witnessed one of the parent flying with an egg shell in its beak and saw it dropped several yards away....I knew then that we had a hatch!

This young chick will leave the nest 1 to 3 hours after hatching, stumbling as it walks and pecking at potential food on the ground.

The chick here is so young that it is hardly moving.

And for the time being it is happy to snuggle under its mom's wings.

A short 24 hours later, as I patrolled the beach for Sea Turtle season, I noticed the photographers lining up the boundary line and waiting for the chicks to run around, by now there are two. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation asks that wildlife photographers remain beyond the posted area, with no part of you or your camera equipment extending beyond the string or signs. Also to restrict photography to no more than 10 minutes because too much time photographing near the nest may stress birds.

It is raining this morning and 3 days has passed since, I can now see the chicks running down the beach - adults brood chicks and act as sentinels, warning chicks of approaching predators with alarm calls.

The chicks are so small that often times we don't even know they are there.

It wasn't long before a Ruddy Turnstone showed up and muddied up the works - both parents teamed up and chased it away while the chicks went up the beach closer to vegetation.

Notice how the parent provided a distraction to lure the Ruddy Turnstone away.

The female returned near her chicks while

the male made sure the coast was clear.

Under mama's wings they go - after all, the chicks require periodic brooding for many days after hatching.

Only the chick's legs are noticeable now.

It wasn't long before the chick was ready to resume his hunting game...

and soon the other chick too.

Soon her job will be complete and she'll look for another mate to start another time a wasting.
More information on nesting shorebirds can be found at where you can download the "Share the Beach with Beach-Nesting Birds" brochure. Also more info can be found at


  1. I really enjoyed your baby plover pictures! Great know I'd love to be there taking pictures with you! Do think it would be OK for me to take pictures of your baby woodpeckers / baby screech owls at your place when they start sticking their heads out of their nests??

  2. Terrific documentation, France! The chicks appear so vulnerable and I'm glad you highlighted the need to give them space and protection.