Point Blue and Monterey Bay Aquarium Biologists to Release Captive-Reared Snowy Plovers into the Wild at Moss Landing State Beach
Point Blue Conservation Science and Monterey Bay Aquarium work together to breed and release endangered birds into the wild, strengthening a population threatened by climate change.
On Thursday, August 8, 2013, biologists from Point Blue Conservation Science and the Monterey Bay Aquarium will release three captive-reared Western Snowy Plovers at Moss Landing State Beach in Monterey County, along the California Coast. These three birds represent an opportunity to increase the population of this threatened bird species, a key indicator of the health of our coastal beaches and the effects of climate change.
In 2013, Western Snowy Plovers are producing the lowest numbers of offspring in 30 years of study, making clear the importance of this captive breeding program.
Biologists from Point Blue Conservation Science (Point Blue, formerly PRBO Conservation Science) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium work together each year to release captive raised plovers into the wild. A recent study from Point Blue documented that captive-raised plovers survived and reproduced just as well as wild birds. This information demonstrates that captive-rearing can be used to strengthen the plover populations in the face of climate change or in the event of a catastrophic oil spill.
“This tiny sparrow-sized shorebird struggles to survive on our beaches – dodging people, dogs, and now will have to grapple with the effects of climate change, including shrinking beach habitat from sea-level rise and wave scouring from strong storms. Our 15 years of partnering with Monterey Bay Aquarium to successfully raise and release these birds has created a formula that works for captive breeding,” said Point Blue Waterbird Ecologist Kriss Neuman.
“We enjoy working on this project,” said Associate Curator of Aviculture at the Aquarium, Aimee Greenebaum. We are excited to learn that all of our hard work is helping to make a positive impact on the population of snowy plovers. Our hope is to continue to educate people and inspire them to help wild populations of not just snowy plovers, but all shorebird species.”
The beaches of Monterey Bay are home to the Western Snowy Plover which lays its eggs and raises its young out in the open, alongside volleyball games and beach blankets. Yet most beachgoers have never seen one, except for the occasional children’s artwork that adorns informational signs announcing their presence. “Plovers and other ground-nesting birds contend with intense predator pressure, which is exacerbated as the fragile stretch of available beach habitat is increasingly pinched between coastal use and sea-level rise”, said Carleton Eyster, Point Blue plover biologist.
Point Blue biologists monitor the entire population of roughly 375 plovers nesting around the Monterey Bay and work closely with coastal landowners to help maintain a healthy population of this threatened species. Thursday’s release will bring the season total of captive-reared juveniles released to eleven, over 10% of the wild young hatched this spring and summer.
Snowy Plovers, like many species that live on the coast, are vulnerable and in need of protection. Their habitat is affected by climate change and human impacts like development and beach recreation. They are a true ‘canary in the coal mine’ signaling changes in the health of their environment. Point Blue’s decades of research on the Snowy Plover has helped to inform protection efforts for their species and the healthy beach ecosystem throughout the Pacific Coast.
Photos of Snowy Plovers are available by request to Melissa Pitkin: email@example.com
Kriss Neuman, Point Blue Waterbird Ecologist (831) 332-0631, firstname.lastname@example.org
Aimee Greenebaum, Monterey Bay Aquarium Aviculture contact (831) 647-6876
Angela Hains, Monterey Bay Aquarium contact (831) 647-6804, email@example.com
Melissa Pitkin, Point Blue Communications (831) 423-3277, firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy PalKovic, CA State Parks, 831-384-7420