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Point Arena, CA

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  Plover Nest Hatching
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  2 Day Old Plovers

Snowy Plover Chicks Hatching

On Monday, July 22, 2002 between 4:00 P.M. and 7:30 P.M. we were privileged to observe the hatching of three Western Snowy Plover chicks. Below is a photographic chronology. These photos were taken on Francis Beach at Half Moon Bay State Beach as part of the Plover Watch volunteer program. (Click on any photo for an enlargement.)

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When we arrived, the male Snowy Plover was incubating the nest. In the first photo, a round piece of brown seaweed sits beside one of the sand-colored eggs. The egg can be seen clearly from the enlargement. In the next photos, two chicks can be seen; the older (first) chick is out of the nest and to the left. The younger (second) chick is with its father. When sitting in the sand, the chicks are very hard to see.
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The first two, brown and speckled chicks tried out their legs. The first chick walked around the nest and out of the photo frame. The second chick, although still wet from the egg, can be seen standing beside its father.
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With unsteady legs, the first chick made its way to its mother who was a few feet away. The female Snowy Plover had been nervously and aggressively chasing away anything that came near the nest. Also, she was removing any feathers that were in the area presumably to keep from attracting predators.
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The female Snowy Plover then settled on the nest to incubate the remaining egg as the second chick walked the few feet to join its father and its nestling.
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We didn't keep track of time but the third egg hatched much later. Both parents took turns incubating the egg while the other stayed with the (now running) first and second chicks. The chicks had begun pecking at the ground to feed themselves even before they left the nest. Finally, the father took two pieces of eggshell from the nest and placed them out of the area. This signaled to us that the third chick had hatched. The father and mother continued taking turns on the nest, rubbing the chick with their feathers to dry it.
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When the third chick emerged from the nest, it was very unsteady on its legs. The first and second chicks came to their mother and all three chicks were together, with the third chick periodically falling on its side.
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As evening approached and the tide came in, the wind picked up and the temperature on the beach dropped. The little chicks began looking to their parents for warmth. When the thick fog came off the water, the female Snowy Plover settled onto the depression in the sand that had served as a nest and all three chicks buried themselves under her body.
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Editor's note: After 28 days, only one chick had survived. Although this chick was seen flying for a distance of 2 feet at a height of about 6 inches, it was still regularly brooding under its father for warmth as the weather was unseasonably cold, damp and windy. At the end of August, this chick was declared fledged to the delight of everybody involved in the Half Moon Bay State Beach Plover Watch program.

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