- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) - Girl Scouts helped biologists carry nests made from palm fronds into the marsh wetlands at Naval Base Ventura County, hoping to lure an endangered bird to make its home there.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking to boost the numbers of the light-footed Ridgway’s rail - also known as the light-footed clapper rail. About 14 inches long, the olive-brown-colored bird has a slightly down-curved bill.

Loss of habitat has been the biggest threat to the species, which came close to extinction in the 1980s, agency biologist Bill Standley told the Ventura County Star for a story Monday (https://bit.ly/1QEC1A4 ).

The bird’s habitat in coastal wetlands was disappearing, leaving its nests vulnerable to high tides and at greater risk from predators.

At one time, the species was thought to have disappeared from the wetlands at the base in Point Mugu - the largest remaining coastal salt marsh in Southern California.

But a pair was reported there in 1983, said Martin Ruane, an ecologist and the Navy base’s natural resources manager.

Since then, officials have tracked the bird’s numbers, which peaked in 2013 with 23 pairs counted. Last year, only 12 pairs were found.

“We really think there’s an opportunity to get that number back up,” Standley said.

Scientists hope the new nests on wooden platforms installed last weekend are a spot safe from high tides and hidden from hawks.

Each of the platforms has a small, motion-activated camera, which will help biologists monitor what wildlife uses them.

When nesting begins in March, biologists will get their first chance to see if the new nests are helping, Standley said.


Information from: Ventura County Star, https://venturacountystar.com

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