Snowy Plover and Least Tern Protection


Plover chick
Young Western Snowy Plover

Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA), a popular OHV park with approximately 1.4 million visitors annually, is an important breeding site for two beach-nesting birds, the federally threatened western snowy plover and the state and federally endangered California least tern.

Each year from March 1 to September 30, approximately 300 acres of the Oceano Dunes SVRA are closed to the public during the breeding season to protect these sensitive birds.

Least Tern
Least tern breeding pair

The park staff intensively monitors the nesting and fledging (chicks that survive to fly) success of these two species seven days a week. An effort is made to locate every nest within the park. Since 1998, Oceano Dunes SVRA has attempted to band and search for all chicks that hatch from our site in order to track their movement and survival. In addition to full-time monitoring, Oceano Dunes SVRA management efforts also include: 

 Maintaining the six-foot "no-climb" fence that surrounds the 300-acre exclosure;
 Enhancing nesting habitat with driftwood, wood chips, and least tern shelters for added protection from predators and the elements);
 Managing predators;
 Monitoring beach invertebrate communities;
 Educating park visitors; and
 Enforcing resource protection regulations;

These efforts help in the recovery of the least tern and snowy plover while keeping OHV use and other recreational opportunities available to the public.

Western Snowy Plover Breeding Statistics:
For the five-year period from 2008 through 2012, Oceano Dunes SVRA has maintained an average of 139 breeding adults and has fledged an average of 102 birds per year. The park has also exceeded an average of 1.2 fledgings per breeding male, which is an indicator of population growth.

Plover dad
Adult Western Snowy Plover on nest

California Least Tern Breeding Statistics:
The California least tern has also achieved strong nest and fledging success at Oceano Dunes SVRA. From 2006 through 2012, the number of breeding adults has ranged from a low of 23 pairs to a high of 55. During this same time period, the site has achieved an average fledging rate in excess of one fledged chick per breeding pair and produced more than 50% of all tern juveniles recorded in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties. Chicks hatched and banded at Oceano Dunes SVRA have returned to successfully nest and fledge young at this site.