Winter Shorebirds Return to Crystal Cove

As summer winds down in Crystal Cove, the beaches become quieter and less crowded each day. While summer vacationers make their way back home, flocks of shorebirds are just arriving to enjoy our mild winter temperatures and abundant food sources.

Avid bird-watchers know that fall and winter is when Crystal Cove’s shoreline truly comes alive. As you stroll along the coastline, you’re likely to find flocks of sanderlings chasing the waves, long billed curlews probing the sand for crabs, or a black bellied plover hunting down insects in the piles of kelp. Many of these birds come to Crystal Cove every winter after spending their summers breeding in the far north of Canada or Alaska. As the winters get too harsh and food becomes scarce, they make their way south and land on our sandy shores to spend the winter months.

One of the few shorebird species found on our beaches year-round is the threatened Western snowy plover. Usually more abundant at Crystal Cove in the winter, increases in human disturbance and coastal development have severely reduced the number of breeding areas, especially in Southern California. While they don’t currently nest in Crystal Cove, our neighbors at Huntington State Beach have had two successful plover nests this summer with 4 fledged chicks. This was the first successful nesting in Huntington in over 50 years! Conservation efforts from California State Parks’ scientists seem to be paying off, and perhaps Crystal Cove will be the next location for the return of nesting plovers.

What can you do to help shorebirds in Crystal Cove? If you come to the beach to see our incredible diversity of birds, don’t forget to bring your binoculars so you can observe them without disturbing their behavior. Dogs are prohibited on Crystal Cove State Park’s beach due in large part to the disturbance they cause to local beach birds. With your help, Crystal Cove can remain a winter sanctuary for birds after their long migration.

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