Endangered Coastal Birds Released On South Coast
A conservation program in Santa Barbara County is working to bring the Snowy Plover back from the brink of extinction.
Two small pet carriers are positioned on the sand at the Coal Oil Point Nature reserve in Goleta.
Inside, nine Snowy Plovers, being released for the first time into the wild.
Hesitant at first, one boldly takes to the skies, the other eight walk cautiously onto the beach.
There are just 737 of the endangered shore birds documented in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties during the 2021 nesting season – which is an upward trend in numbers.
Bringing the birds back from the verge of extinction is the work of a collaborative Snowy Plover Rehabilitation Program; a partnership between the Santa Barbara Zoo, UC Santa Barbara and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with many other state and non-governmental organizations.
"They are these adorable tiny little shorebirds that live on the coast of California", explains Ellie Cullip, a keeper from Santa Barbara Zoo.
Their numbers aren't as strong as we want them to be. We would like them to be as popular as seagulls
Helping plovers, is helping an entire ecosystem says Cullip.
"They are going for all these little critters in the seaweeds. It's something that not everybody thinks about. Not only are they feeding themselves but they are keeping our shores clean," she told KCLU.
The loss of habitat is a contributing factor to the decline in numbers, says Christina Sandoval, the director of Coal Oil Point Reserve.
"Beaches in California have this conflict between people wanting to recreate and wildlife wanting to live their lives.
"What we want to find out is what the sweet spot is," Sandoval told KCLU. "With the Plover program, we started 20 years ago with no Snowy Plovers nesting here and recreation wasn't controlled. By studying people and studying Plovers, we figured out how to share the beach and - sure enough - they started nesting."
The hope is that the nine birds will nest in the area and numbers continue to rise.