SAN DIEGO — Several birds of a federally endangered species were released Tuesday at the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge through a conservation partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, SeaWorld San Diego and other groups.
Representatives of the Light-Footed Ridgeway’s Rail Breeding Program released the seven hen-sized marsh birds into the wild at the refuge. The program has worked since 2001 to reinvigorate the species’ population numbers in the wild. To date, more than 530 Ridgeway’s rails have been bred and released into the wild through the program.
According to SeaWorld, the loss of more than 90% of salt marsh habitat in Southern California has caused a steep decline in the species’ population in the wild. The rail population has also declined at the Tijuana Slough since 2016 due to effects from El Nino weather patterns like a die-off of the species’ prey and an increased threat of avian predators.
The species has been listed as endangered since the 1970s.
“Today was our goal, so it’s always just so rewarding to put in all these resources and time to raise these chicks, essentially from first hatch to being released into the wild,” said Beth Sabiston, an animal care manager with the Living Coast Discovery Center. “So, these are my favorite days.”