Seven Light-footed Clapper Rail chicks are the newest additions to the Chula Vista Nature Center. The three-week old rails—members of an endangered species—are active and healthy, running around catching insects and mimicking their parents. While the parents are caring for the new chicks, they’ve laid another batch of eggs, an unusual event for rails in a captive breeding program.
“Visitors to the Nature Center can catch a glimpse of the shy birds darting in and out of their nests at the Shorebird exhibit,” said Programs Manager Kerry Laube. “These rare chicks are adorable and fun to watch.”
Decades ago, large numbers of light-footed clapper rails thrived in southern California’s coastal salt marshes. As these critical habitats disappeared, the rail population dwindled. Today, fewer than 700 Light-footed Clapper Rails exist anywhere in the wild.
The bird is an endangered species that wouldn’t have a chance of surviving without the help of the workers and volunteers at the Nature Center. Their commitment and the efforts of their partners-- SeaWorld, the San Diego Wild Animal Park, independent biologists and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service--- are saving a rare species from extinction.
The Nature Center’s captive breeding program began in 2001. Since then, 170 birds have been reared and released into the region’s wetlands-- from Santa Barbara to Mission Bay.
NOTE: To make arrangements to photograph the chicks, contact the Office of Communications.
The birds are raised in specially designed enclosures that are planted with native brush. Here they learn how to forage for food and hide from predators—important training for surviving in the wild. Light-footed Clapper Rails lay up to three sets of eggs a year. Months later, when the fledglings are released, they should be old enough and smart enough to make it on their own.