Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Snowy Plovers at Bolsa Chica

Hello again,
This afternoon I went out to Bolsa Chica to photograph some birds. At Bolsa Chica there is protected nesting habitat for an endangered bird called the snowy plover. They are small shorebirds that pick insects and bits of food off of the sand. Traditionally they nested in Southern California on sandy beaches. You can probably guess why they are now endangered. Over Memorial Day weekend I saw two chicks gleaning food alongside their dad by the water's edge. I was worried today since I saw two adults by the water, but no chicks. In addition I saw 6 gulls feeding on the carcass of an octopus right near where I had seen the chicks and adult plovers feeding. A snowy plover chick would make a nice snack for a gull. However as I walked on a bit I saw dad running around and herding two chicks away from the water. How do I know the adult is dad and not mom? Snowy plovers are polyandrous. This means many males. Mom mates with dad, lays the eggs and incubates them. When they hatch mom leaves to find another mate, and dad raises the chicks.

Notice the camouflage of the chick? These chicks are very precocious. They leave the nest shortly after hatching and can feed themselves.

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