It’s a good year for Snowy Plovers at one of my favorite spots on the West Coast of Florida. This is the third family to hatch young ones at this breeding colony. I arrived at sunrise, immediately plopped on my stomach in the sand, and watched the small chick running around the beach. Boy is he fast! I think the baby was about two weeks old at this time.
These images were taken with my long lens and heavily cropped. I was enchanted when Mom lay down in the sand, and the baby nuzzled up under her wing. Snowy Plover chicks are precocial, meaning that they are born with the ability to feed themselves. They spend most of their days running after bugs on the beach, so these moments with Mom are very special.
It’s hard to describe how tiny these birds are. They are so white that they blend in with the sand, and the chicks are no taller than the tiny patches of grass that grow in the sand. I often describe them as cotton balls with legs the size of toothpicks!
Snowy Plovers are threatened in Florida, with fewer than 200 breeding pairs remaining. Their population is on the decline across the state. Park rangers keep finding emaciated dead birds. So I was excited to see these guys doing so well, and so grateful for the opportunity to see them.
Does this give you some perspective for how tiny these birds are? This flock of Laughing Gulls was gorging on the lunchbox remains of Memorial Day. The little Snowy Plover kept feeding at the edge of the colony, preferring his bugs to McDonald’s.
Lying still in the sand has its rewards. After a while, the birds don’t worry about you. They run about the beach, taking care of their babies, and they make their way closer and closer to you. Until you’re holding your breath and trying not to squeal when the Snowy Plover chick gives you full-frame shots!
Later I noticed a great deal of commotion in the distance. Focusing my camera in that direction, I spotted a Wilson’s Plover chasing off a pair of Snowy Plovers. I guess the Snowies were getting too close to the Wilson’s Plover chicks.
It was hard to tear myself away from these beautiful little birds. Here’s a last shot of Mama and Baby hanging out in the sweet morning light!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Fort De Soto?
Check out my Fort De Soto page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!