The Friendliest Bird on the Beach

by April Price, Conservation Specialist, Coal Oil Point Reserve

Raul the western snowy plover is still adjusting to life among his own kind at Coal Oil Point Reserve. Image credit: Alexis Frangis
Raul the western snowy plover is still adjusting to life among his own kind at Coal Oil Point Reserve. Image credit: Alexis Frangis

On August 6, an employee at McGrath State Beach rescued a plover egg from being washed away, and brought the egg to the NRS’s Coal Oil Point Reserve. After a two-day incubation at the reserve, a fuzzy baby plover emerged and Raul was born.

Raul spent the first few weeks of his life in an open-top terrarium. It was amazing to watch him grow, hunt beach hoppers, and to see his plumage change almost overnight. After about three weeks at the Reserve, Raul’s wings had grown significantly and he was ready to move to the Wildlife Care Network’s aviary where he would learn to fly.

Friday, September 13 was Raul’s lucky day. That day, we released Raul in front of the slough mouth at the Reserve, next to a large flock of other Snowy Plovers. Other than his own reflection in the mirror, Raul had never seen another plover before. As soon as we released him, he took off flying, but quickly returned to the beach. He ignored the other plovers on the beach and stayed close to the group of people and his empty cage.

We don’t know much about Raul’s new life on the beach. He occasionally comes up to the docents for a quick hello, but doesn’t say much else. Has he interacted with the other plovers? Has he explored new beaches? (Is he actually a female?!) We hope that his tame temperament fades, and that he learns to avoid people, dogs, and other dangers on the beach.

We also hope that he sticks around the reserve, that some other plover digs his bright color bands (Pink Aqua, Yellow Yellow PA:YY), and that someday there will be little ones running around with Raul.