The tide is turning, for the good, for a small coastal wetlands bird called the light-footed clapper rail. Once common in the early 1900s, this species diminished drastically due to loss of habitat. The clapper rail is now considered critically endangered, but thanks to a group called Team Clapper Rail, all that is changing.
In a true spirit of cooperation and environmental stewardship, SeaWorld San Diego has worked with several zoological and government agencies over the last 10 years to breed, rear and release this bird into local habitats where it can flourish and breed. The Team recently reached a major milestone: the 300th bird released!
SeaWorld’s role in the captive breeding program is to help breed, raise, transition and eventually release the birds.
In order to minimize human contact, SeaWorld uses a method of feeding called “puppet rearing.”
Once the birds are a little older, they are moved to a transition pen, where they learn to forage for food on their own, preparing for them survival in the wild.
Team Clapper Rail (which consists of SeaWorld San Diego; the San Diego Zoo Safari Park; the Chula Vista Nature Center; independent wildlife biologists; and local and federal government agencies) has been releasing clapper rails into Southern California’s coastal salt marshes since 2001. Annual surveys indicate that the introduction of zoologically-bred birds — and other conservation efforts — are paying off. Wild rail populations are at their highest level since yearly censuses were begun in the 1980s. The population has grown from as few as 142 pairs in 1985, to at least 424 today. Way to go, Team Clapper Rail!