[SBAS Index]

Santa Barbara Audubon Society
Endangered Species Protection

Western Snowy Plover
Learn more about the Snowy Plover Docent Program!

Belding's Savannah Sparrow

The Belding's Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis beldingi) is a non-migratory subspecies that occurs in coastal salt marshes between Goleta Slough, Santa Barbara County, and Bahia de San Quintin in Mexico. This is a state endangered bird, and a candidate species for federal protection.

The Belding's Savannah Sparrow is one of the few bird species that resides year-round in the salt marsh; it depends entirely on this ecosystem for nesting and foraging. It shows a particular affinity for the upper littoral region of the marsh, and nests preferentially in pickleweed Salicornia virginica. Nesting season extends from January to August. Nests must be above the highest tide line in spring as the eggs are not resistant to inundation.

Belding's Savannah Sparrow is a resident bird of Devereux and Goleta Sloughs. It is State-listed as an endangered species. Photo credit Museum of Systematics, UCSB

These birds have been observed at all times of the year foraging on mudflats, sandflats, and rock jetties. At Goleta Slough the most significant impact on the Savannah Sparrow is probably a loss of foraging habitat. Source: Goleta Slough Ecological Reserve draft Management Plan, and the Goleta Slough Ecosystem Management Plan, draft Dec. 1997.

Several habitat restoration efforts planned or underway in the Goleta Slough can expand the foraging habitat of the Belding's Savannah Sparrow. However, the Goleta Beach Rock Revetment which was installed as an emergency measure during the winter storms in February 2000 has impacted a documented beach foraging site at the west end of Goleta Beach County Park - see Goleta Beach Seawall in the Development Review Section. The proposed renovation of UCSB's pump station on the East Bluff mesa and the replacement of the sewer lines through Goleta Slough also has potential impacts to the foraging habitat of the Belding's Savannah Sparrow.

Western Snowy Plover

Status of Snowy Plover

The Western Snowy Plover, a small shorebird, was designated "Threatened" by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1993 due to rapidly declining population sizes. Critical habitat was designated in January 2000; this includes several beaches in Santa Barbara County: Sands Beach at the Coal Oil Point Reserve, Ocean Beach and Surf Beach, which are both part of Vandenberg Air Force Base. The latter two are breeding sites for the Snowy Plover, and partial to complete closure of the beaches during breeding season which coincides with summer beach use by people has Lompoc residents incensed.

Focus on: Snowy Plover
by Kathleen Whitney
(as published in El Tecolote,
the newsletter of Santa Barbara Audubon,
September 1999)

Sands Beach Snowy Plover

What you can do to help our Snowy Plovers

  1. When walking up and down the beach, stay on the wet, hard-packed sand -- the Plovers rarely use this area.

  2. A "Snowy Plover Naturalist" is stationed on Sands Beach a few afternoons a week with a spotting scope trained on the plover roost, during the season the birds are here, August to May. If you're at the beach during one of those times (look for the sign at the beach entrance), visit the naturalist to have a close-up look at the plovers, and take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about these amazing birds!

  3. Choose a beach which is not used by Snowy Plovers to exercise your dog. If you do bring your dog to the Reserve Beach, PLEASE keep it on a leash, to prevent it from actively chasing and disturbing the plovers.

  4. If you enter the Reserve Beach using the "Delta Trail" (along the eastern edge of Devereux Slough), please be aware that you are walking through prime plover habitat, and that the birds might be roosting in the debris zone right near the trailhead.

  5. If plovers react to you, retreat several paces and walk in a wide arc around them.

** Your cooperation will help the plovers and will also allow you and others to continue to visit this beautiful beach for recreation and relaxation. **

Tiger Salamander, Santa Barbara County Population

Life Cycle of Tiger Salamanders

The tiger salamanders in Santa Barbara County (Ambystoma californiensis, SB County population) have an annual life cycle: they estivate (lie dormant) underground during the majority of the year (9 - 11 months), and then, with the winter rains, emerge from their burrows and travel overland to vernal (seasonal) pools where they breed and lay their eggs. These eggs quickly grow first into tadpole-like larvae and then into young salamanders. With the drying of the pools, the young migrate back to the surrounding uplands to find a suitable burrow which will provide them moisture and protection for the dry months ahead.

California Tiger Salamander
Santa Rita Valley population
Photo courtesy Dr. Sam Sweet, UCSB

The vernal pools in which the salamanders breed are essential for reproduction and the continued success of the population. The upland coastal scrub, grassland, and oak woodland communities surrounding the pools are also crucial to their survival-these areas are inhabited by the salamanders during most of the year. They utilize the burrows of ground squirrels and other small mammals. They have been known to travel up to 1.2 miles during migration between upland habitats and breeding ponds.

Range of Santa Barbara Tiger Salamanders

The California tiger salamander is restricted to California. The Santa Barbara County population is geographically separate from all other populations of the species. The range is only 12-15 square miles of the county, generally between Orcutt and the Santa Rita Valley west of Buellton.

Emergency Listing

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the Santa Barbara population of tiger salamanders on January 19, 2000, under emergency listing provisions of the Endangered Species Act. This gives the USFWS about eight months to determine if permanent listing is warranted. Initially, farmers in the potential habitat areas were unable to plant their crops until their property was inspected and determined not to harbor the salamanders. With much pressure from Senator Diane Feinstein, Rep. Lois Capps, and the County Board of Supervisors, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt let spring planting get underway, in fields cultivated last year. This restricts the impacts to new cultivation in the potential habitat areas

Santa Barbara Audubon Comments

In March, 2000, Santa Barbara Audubon wrote to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and to Congresswoman Capps supporting the emergency listing of the Santa Barbara tiger salamander. Critical habitat needs to be designated, and support a system of compensation for the landowners whose activities are restricted. Preservation of an endangered species is a public responsibility and public benefit, and the landowners alone should not bear the burden.

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Chapter office address:
5679 Hollister Ave., Suite 5b
Goleta, CA 93117

Chapter email: Info at SantaBarbaraAudubon.org
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Updated: July 20, 2008