Clapper Rails In Recovery: Number 300 Just Released

A milestone was celebrated recently at the Chula Vista Nature Center with the release of 26 endangered light-footed clapper rails into local marshes — the big event marked the 300th bird released in the 10-year breeding program.

The Clapper Rail Recovery Program started when biologist and clapper rail champion, Richard Zembal, along with the Nature Center, decided to breed rails at the center for release into local wetlands. The not-so-bird-brained idea was soon adopted by fellow avarian partners and heavy hitting supporters including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park, the U.S. Navy, the Port of San Diego and the California Department of Fish and Game.

Common residents in SoCal marshlands in the early 1900s, light-footed clapper rails are another one of those beautiful shore birds that became endangered because of loss of their wetland habitat.  (A mouth-dropping stat: only 10 percent of wetlands remain here in SoCal.)

But the success of this breeding program has biologists are smiling. Populations of the wild rail are at the highest level since folks started counting them in the 1980s.  The population has grown from the 142 pairs in 1985 to (at least) 424 today.

Keep those chicks a–comin’, we say!

– B.R. Photo: Light-footed clapper rail, California Coastal Commission.