Staff at the Monterey Bay Aquarium are raising three Snowy Plover chicks, an Endangered species. The aquarium's experienced rehabilitators believe these little guys have an excellent chance of being successfully re-released back into the wild.
Some well-meaning beachgoers brought two tagged chicks to the aquarium for care, thinking that they had been abandoned. Because breeding pairs and nest sites are carefully monitored, it was possible to figure out what nest the chicks had come from and to discover that the father was still caring for his one remaining chick.
Representatives of California State Parks and Point Blue Conservation Science carefully placed a cage over the chick to keep the parent close by until aquarium staff could arrive with the other two chicks. They then placed all three chicks in the enclosure to give the dad a chance to see them. After ensuring that the male was interested in the chicks, the cage was removed the cage and he began caring for all three once again.
Unfortunately, the father seems to have changed his mind, and all three chicks are now being raised at the aquarium. Fortunately, they have been rehabilitating Snowy Plover chicks since 2000, with dozens of successful releases.
See and learn more after the fold.
In order to be released, the rehabilitated birds will have to demonstrate that they will be able to live in the wild. The have to reach a minimum healthy weight, demonstrate wariness of humans, and be able to fly and find food on their own.
Once numbering in the thousands, U.S. Pacific coast western snowy plovers were listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993. Today it’s estimated that only about 2,100 plovers breed along the coast, with the largest number found from south San Francisco Bay to southern Baja California. They are threatened by human disturbance and loss of nesting habitat on beaches.
To help keep adult plovers from abandoning their nests, beachgoers can keep dogs on a leash on beaches during snowy plover breeding season and stay out of areas that have been blocked off as bird nesting sights. Learn more about Snowy Plover rehabilitation here on Monterey Bay Aquarium's website.