Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) populations in San Diego County appear to have decreased through the early 1900s in conjunction with human population growth and concomitant habitat loss. By the late 1970s/early 1980s, there were perhaps 250-300 pairs left, but as of 2003 the population had been reduced to no more than 25-30 resident pairs (note: recent surveys revealed additional owls suggesting that there were, at most, 46 pairs in the county as of 2007). Primary threats to the remaining small Burrowing Owl population in San Diego County are reduced habitat suitability and fragmentation of remaining suitable habitat; conflicts with management of listed species, especially the California Least Tern (Sterna antillarum browni) and Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus); and human disturbance (including their pets and vehicles). In addition, predators, prey abundance and availability, and colony size are likely factors influencing population dynamics, the relative importance of which are difficult to characterize. Given county owl population declines and current threats, a comprehensive management program is essential to protect remaining habitat and owls. If such a plan, or similar action, is not implemented soon, extirpation of the Burrowing Owl in San Diego County seems imminent.
CURRENT SPECIES STATUS: The Pacific coast population of the western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) (western snowy plover) is federally listed as threatened. The current Pacific coast breeding population extends from Damon Point, Washington, south to Bahia Magdalena, Baja California, Mexico (including both Pacific and Gulf of California coasts). The western snowy plover winters mainly in coastal areas from southern Washington to Central America.
HABITAT REQUIREMENTS AND LIMITING FACTORS: The Pacific coast population of the western snowy plover breeds primarily above the high tide line on coastal beaches, sand spits, dune-backed beaches, sparsely-vegetated dunes, beaches at creek and river mouths, and salt pans at lagoons and estuaries. Less common nesting habitats include bluff-backed beaches, dredged material disposal sites, salt pond levees, dry salt ponds, and river bars. In winter, western snowy plovers are found on many of the beaches used for nesting as well as on beaches where they do not nest, in man-made salt ponds, and on estuarine sand and mud flats.
Habitat degradation caused by human disturbance, urban development, introduced beachgrass (Ammophila spp.), and expanding predator populations have resulted in a decline in active nesting areas and in the size of the breeding and wintering populations.
RECOVERY OBJECTIVE: The primary objective of this recovery plan is to remove the Pacific coast population of the western snowy plover from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants by: (1) increasing population numbers distributed across the range of the Pacific coast population of the western snowy plover; (2) conducting intensive ongoing management for the species and its habitat and developing mechanisms to ensure management in perpetuity; and (3) monitoring western snowy plover populations and threats to determine success of recovery actions and refine management actions.
RECOVERY PRIORITY: 3C, per criteria published by Federal Register Notice (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1983).
RECOVERY CRITERIA: The Pacific coast population of the western snowy plover will be considered for delisting when the following criteria have been met:
1. An average of 3,000 breeding adults has been maintained for 10 years,
distributed among 6 recovery units as follows: Washington and Oregon, 250 breeding adults; Del Norte to Mendocino Counties, California, 150 breeding adults; San Francisco Bay, California, 500 breedin
Western snowy plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus) were monitored during the breeding
and wintering seasons of 1995. Surveys were conducted on lands managed or owned by the State
of California, in Orange and San Diego Counties. Of the ten sites monitored for breeding activity,
three supported nesting snowy plovers in 1995. Bolsa Chica Lagoon was the only breeding site in
Orange County, whereas Silver Strand State Beach and Tijuana Estuary were two of eight known
breeding sites in San Diego County. Many of the state lands did not support nesting plovers due
to insufficient habitat and heavy recreational use. Both of the San Diego County sites have
potential for supporting more snowy plovers given appropriate management actions. In contrast,
nine sites on or adjacent to State-managed lands were used by plovers during the wintering
months. Wintering plovers may not be affected by recreational beach use, but habitat needs to be
protected from future development or habitat alteration.
The San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge protects a rich diversity of endangered, threatened, migratory, and native species and their habitats in the midst of a highly urbanized coastal environment. Nesting, foraging, and resting sites are managed for a diverse assembly of birds. Waterfowl and shorebirds over-winter or stop here to feed and rest as they migrate along the Pacific Flyway. Undisturbed expanses of cordgrass dominated salt marsh support sustainable populations of light-footed clapper rail. Enhanced and restored wetlands provide new, high quality habitat for fish, birds, and coastal salt marsh plants, such as the endangered salt marsh bird?s beak. Quiet nesting areas, buffered from adjacent urbanization, ensure the reproductive success of the threatened western snowy plover, endangered California least tern, and an array of ground nesting seabirds and shorebirds.
The San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge also provides the public with the opportunity to observe birds and wildlife in their native habitats and to enjoy and connect with the natural environment. Informative environmental education and interpretation programs expand the public?s awareness of the richness of the wildlife resources of the Refuge. The Refuge serves as a haven for wildlife and the public to be treasured by this and future
From September 2013 to September 2015 SANDAG has provided funding to assist in the
management and recovery of two federally listed species. Both the California Least Tern and
Western Snowy Plover are listed species of birds who reside at D-Street during the breeding
season of every year. While these species are primarily present only during the breeding
season, managing the site is a year-round effort. USFWS and SDUPD manage the site in a
somewhat artificial manner keying on the needs of these two species. The site itself is an
artificial area created many years ago from the dredge spoils of the Sweetwater River as well
as excess soil from Interstate 5 and State Route 54 construction activities. Funding provided
allows us to continue managing the site.
This letter includes the final reporting and submittal of all outstanding deliverables for the North
County Dunes Restoration (Coastal Species) Project (Project). The Project was initiated through a
grant proposal agreement between the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the San
Elijo Lagoon Conservancy (SELC) signed on July 19, 2013. The agreement confirmed SELC’s
submittal of a successful application for TransNet Environmental Mitigation Program (EMP) Regional
Habitat Conservation funds.