Environment News

Kendall-Frost Marsh has Some New Residents: Seven Endangered Ridgway’s Rails Released

US Fish and Wildlife Service, Living Coast Discovery Center, the City of San Diego and San Diego Audubon Society got to spend their morning introducing captive-bred Ridgway’s Rails to the marsh on Tuesday.

SDAS Executive Director Travis Kemnitz and San Diego Councilmember Joe LaCava Release Rail. Photo by Victor Santos

“What are all those little brown huts out there?” is a common question overheard when walking or biking past the beautiful marsh nestled within Crown Point. The answer lies with a reclusive rusty-brown bird only found in saltmarsh habitats: the Ridgway’s Rail. Named for their thin legs, Rails make their homes out of cordgrass, if there is enough natural cordgrass available, and often reside in salt marsh habitats with shallow water and plenty of food, like Kendall-Frost Marsh. These brown huts are nesting platforms that UC San Diego has placed to provide habitat and protection from predators for our resident rails. Less than 50% of coastal wetlands in California are home to Ridgway’s rails, and they’ve only been found to nest in 18 marshes in Southern California, so we’re lucky to have these little birds call the remaining stretch of wetland in Mission Bay home.

Light-footed Ridgways Rail by Ilene Klein

On Tuesday morning, local organizations including US Fish and Wildlife, the City of San Diego, San Diego Audubon Society, and Living Coast Discovery Center gathered for the release of captive-bred Ridgway’s Rails. These endangered saltmarsh residents were raised at Living Coast Discovery Center as part of a USFWS Ridgway’s Rail breeding program, and seven of them are now old enough to thrive on their own in their new home. The 1985 Light-Footed Clapper Rail Recovery Plan’s aim is to have 800 breeding pairs in Southern California, a goal that cannot be achieved without more wetland habitats for them to reside in. UC San Diego’s Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve is the remaining 1% of the original 4000 acres of wetland that existed in Mission Bay pre-1940′s.

The mission of the ReWild coalition is aimed at restoring wetlands in the northeast corner of Mission Bay that used to exist in order to improve habitat for the Critically Endangered Ridgway’s Rail. Restoring habitat comes with a lot of benefits for not only our little rust-colored friend, restored wetlands also increase water quality, climate resiliency, and sequester carbon. By increasing the number of wetlands we have, we will not only have more Ridgway’s Rails, but also a healthy, diverse ecosystem that serves not only wildlife but the people that love it. We’re very grateful for the support of our ReWild coalition members and local representatives like Councilmember Joe LaCava for their help in making more wetlands the future of Mission Bay. If you want to learn more about how you can help restore wetlands for the Endangered Ridgway’s Rail, Take Action today.