The Pacific coast population of western snowy plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1993 and its decline is primarily attributed to habitat loss. In southern California, snowy plovers typically nest in association with federally endangered California least terns (Sterna antillarum browni). Since least terns were afforded protection under the ESA, the creation of nesting habitat from dredged materials has been a popular component of habitat restoration to partially compensate for wetland loss in this region. We had a unique opportunity to monitor habitat use and reproductive success at newly created habitats associated with the restoration of Batiquitos Lagoon, San Diego County, California from 1994 to 1998. We also compared hatch and fledge rates and habitat characteristics of snowy plovers nesting at new nesting areas at Batiquitos Lagoon to a nearby natural beach and a dredged-material area created in the 1970s. The number of nesting attempts by snowy plovers increased from 5 in 1994 to a high of 38 in 1997, and plovers nested on 4 of the 5 created areas. Fledge rates at Batiquitos Lagoon varied annually and declined after the initial colonization in 1995. Fledge rate in 1995 was higher at the newly created area than at the older dredged-material and natural beach areas in any other year. Nests on the created areas at Batiquitos Lagoon were surrounded by less vegetative cover, less debris, and shorter vegetation than nests at the older dredged-material and natural beach areas. Nonbreeding snowy plovers used created habitats within the lagoon, and more plovers used the lagoon and its adjacent beach during fall than winter. Predation pressure and habitat quality were important factors determining use and reproductive success on created areas at Batiquitos Lagoon.
Additional publication details
Habitat use and reproductive success of western snowy plovers at new nesting areas created for California least terns