Join the search for the Western snowy plover, a threatened species now roosting on local beaches

A tiny Western snowy plover looks for a snack on Dockweiler Beach
Photo by Ted Soqui

How do you spot a bird the color of sand, small enough to nest in a footprint, along miles of beach in Santa Monica?

“You just look,” says Lu Plauzoles, conservation chair of the Santa Monica Audubon Society. “Experience helps, too.”

Each winter the Pacific Coast population of Western snowy plovers flies to sandy beaches in Santa Monica, Venice and Playa del Rey.

Plauzoles and the Audubon Society are teaming up with the Annenberg Community Beach House for the 4th annual Snowy Plover Beach Walk,” a guided tour along the beach in search of these birds.

For several years, Plauzoles and others have been keeping his eye on a colony of snowy plovers — typically just a few dozen birds — that winters just south of the beach house.

Nesting in plain sight on the sand, snowy plovers are the smallest birds on the beach and also some of the most difficult to find.

“Less than 5,000 are counted every winter, from Washington down to Baja,” Plauzoles says. “They’re a threatened species, one step down from endangered.”

While spotting snowy plovers is the ultimate prize, Audubon guides will also fill people in on other bird species, including gulls, loons, sandpipers and many others that frequent both surf and shore.

The event welcomes both amateurs and enthusiasts. If you do get hooked on snowy plovers, interested parties can also volunteer for the annual plover census later in the month.

— Andy Vasoyan

The Snowy Plover Beach Walk is from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 8, starting from the Annenberg Community Beach House, 415 Pacific Coast Hwy., Santa Monica. The event is free;
nearby parking is $8. Call (310) 458-4904 or visit to register.