eWestern Birds

The Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists

Vol. 37, No. 3
September 2006
Western Field Ornithologists


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Effects of a Changing Environment on Nesting Snowy Plovers at Owens Lake, California
Tamiko D. Ruhlen, Gary W. Page, and Lynne E. Stenzel

ABSTRACT: Fourteen lakewide surveys for breeding Snowy Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus) have been conducted at Owens Lake over three decades. There was a steep decline from 499 adults on the first survey in 1978 to 195 on the second in 1988. Nine subsequent counts from 1990 to 2001 varied from 101 to 203 adults (mean 138, standard error 11). After the introduction in 2002 of water to large areas for dust control, numbers of adults increased annually to 658 in 2004. Shallow flooded areas now account for 85% of the adults. The distribution of nests has also changed since the addition of water. The area of most extensive shallow flooding accounted for 71% and 61% of the nests found in 2002 and 2003, respectively, compared with only 27% in the area in 2001 prior to flooding. The nesting season has also been extended by about a month since the plovers began nesting in flooded areas. At Owens Lake Snowy Plovers have benefited from the shallow flooding for dust control but are now more dependent on man-made habitat.

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