Studying and conserving special-status species, including threatened species and endangered wildlife, helps agencies charged with their conservation and gives us insight into how we can help keep them from going extinct.  Explore the special status species we study below and learn how you can help.

Clapper Rail

Current status:

Endangered, steep decline since early 2000’s that may be leveling off, but still at levels well below historical numbers

Habitat:

Tidal marsh

Cause of decline:

Hunting; development-- about 90% of tidal marsh habitat around San Francisco Bay has been lost

Current primary threat(s):

Pressure from invasive species, non-native predators, and habitat loss due to sea level rise

What we’re doing about it:

Point Blue has biologists monitoring populations through in the field studies as well as summarizing and analyzing current and historical data.  We are working with partners to improve and standardize survey methods for these and other secretive marsh birds.  We are informing our partners on how and where it is best to restore tidal marsh habitat using our long-term data sets and online tools.  We are restoring marsh upland transition habitat—areas where Clapper Rails can take refuge during high tide periods and where tidal marsh can migrate to with sea level rise in the future—through our Students and Teachers Restoring A Watershed Project.

Learn more:

Visit The State of the Birds San Francisco Bay 2011 or download reports and papers.

Download a copy of the Pocket Guide to San Francisco Bay Birds

Point Blue contact- Julian Wood

How you can help:

Visit The State of the Birds San Francisco Bay 2011 website for detailed information on Clapper Rails for government agencies and land owners on actions needed to increase populations.

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Black Rail

Current Status:

Species of concern throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, threatened in California, US Fish and Wildlife “species of concern,”  recently increasing

Habitat: 

Endemic to tidal salt marshes of San Francisco Bay

Cause of decline:

Loss of habitat to development-- about 90% of tidal marsh habitat around San Francisco Bay has been lost

Current primary threat(s):

Habitat loss due to sea level rise

What we’re doing about it:

Point Blue has biologists in the field monitoring populations as well as summarizing and analyzing data.  We are working with partners to improve survey methods to increase detections of these secretive marsh birds.  We are informing our partners on how best to restore tidal marsh habitat using our long-term data sets and online tools. Our data shows that efforts to conserve and restore habitat suitable for the Black Rail may be working, with slight increases in the population.  Recent increases give hope for this State-listed species.

Learn more:

Visit The State of the Birds San Francisco Bay 2011

Download a copy of the Pocket Guide to San Francisco Bay Birds

Point Blue contact- Julian Wood

How you can help:

Visit the threats and actions section of the tidal marsh feature inThe State of the Birds San Francisco Bay 2011

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Western Snowy Plover

Current Status:

Federally Threatened since 1993, California Bird Species of Special Concern; sharp decline from early 1970’s until early 2000’s, since early 2000’s population increasing


Habitat:

Coastal beaches and open sandy coastal areas, sparsely vegetated dues, salt pans at lagoons and estuaries, some other open areas


Cause of decline:

Coastal development, habitat loss and alteration, predation by introduced species, and recreational disturbance at beaches

Current primary threats:

Habitat loss, increased predation, recreational disturbance of nesting birds

What we’re doing about it:

Monitoring, guiding management, education and outreach.  Read more about our Snowy Plover Conservation Program.

Learn more: 

Visit The State of the Birds San Francisco Bay 2011 and reading the reports and publications in the how you can help section below.

Download a copy of our Pocket Guide to Beach Birds of California.

Download our Helping Birds on West Coast Beaches handout.

Point Blue contact- Carleton Eyster or Jenny Erbes

How you can help:

Visit The State of the Birds San Francisco Bay 2011 to view threats and conservation actions for the Western Snowy Plover.

Visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Snowy Plover species page.

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Long-billed Curlew

Current status:

Species of Conservation Concern by the USFWS

Habitat:

wetlands, intertidal, and grasslands, agricultural lands, especially alfalfa, pastures and post-harvest rice fields.

Cause of decline:

loss of grassland and wetland habitat

Current primary threats:

projected effects of climate change on grassland and wetland habitat; continued loss of habitat; changing agricultural practices to something unfavorable to curlews or urbanization of agricultural lands

What we’re doing about it:

working with rice and alfalfa farmers in California’s Central Valley to facilitate management for curlew and other shorebird habitat as well as human agricultural needs.  Tracking curlews through different methods including radio telemetry to determine feeding and nesting hotspots.

Learn more:

Download a copy of the Pocket Guide to San Francisco Bay Birds

Download a copy of our Pocket Guide to Beach Birds of California.

Download our Helping Birds on West Coast Beaches handout.

Point Blue contact- Gary Page or W David Shuford

How you can help:

Support conservation of wetland, intertidal and grassland habitats.

Support conservation partnerships between agicultural producers and conservation biologists.

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Northern Spotted Owl

Current status:

Federally Threatened, Marin population appears stable

Habitat:

Late-succession and old-growth forest of Douglas-fir, coast redwood, bishop pine, mixed conifer–hardwood, and other evergreen hardwood trees

Cause of range-wide decline:

Loss of habitat in late-successional and old-growth forest; competition with Barred Owls as this close relative expands its range

Current primary threats in Marin County:

Competition from the Barred Owl, poisoning from rodenticides, habitat loss

What we’re doing about it:

We are researching Northern Spotted Owls in Marin County to understand the biology of a secretive species living in close proximity to an urban center where noise and human traffic can impact the owl.  Our current research project addresses these human threats by locating and monitoring nests and promptly communicating these results to local land managers. USFWS rules require that land management activities do not harm or harass owls or their habitat.

Our data have resulted in:

Learn more:

Visit The State of the Birds San Francisco Bay 2011 and reading the reports and publications below.

Status and distribution of the barred owl in Marin County, California , Jennings, S., R. L. Cormier, T. Gardali, D. Press, and W. W. Merkle. 2011. Western Birds 42: 103-110.

Status and trends in demography of Northern Spotted Owls, 1985–2003. Wildlife Monographs No.163.  Anthony et.al.

Modeling nest-site occurrence for the Northern Spotted Owl at its southern range limit in central California.  Landscape and Urban Planning 90: 76-85. Stralberg et. al.

Point Blue contact- Renee Cormier

How you can help:

Visit The State of the Birds San Francisco Bay 2011 to view threats and conservation actions for the Northern Spotted Owl.

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Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Current status:

State endangered, candidate for federal endangered listing

Habitat:

Riparian forest, particularly large patches of dense cottonwood and willows.  Historically common in riparian areas of the Central Valley and southern California, it now breeds primarily in three locations in California: Sacramento Valley, Kern River, and Lower Colorado River

Cause of decline:

Loss of suitable riparian habitat due to conversion to agriculture, alteration of natural river processes, and development of human settlements

Current primary threats:

Habitat loss and fragmentation

What we’re doing about it:

Since 2010, Point Blue ecologists have been adding to previous knowledge about cuckoos by conducting surveys in riparian, or streamside, habitat along the Sacramento and Feather rivers to estimate population size and gather information about Yellow-billed Cuckoo habits and habitat preferences. These surveys have found a very small population and identified areas currently being used by cuckoos. We’re using this information to help land managers plan restorations in the Central Valley to help this species recover.

Learn more:

2012 report
2010 report
Yellow-billed Cuckoo Species Account in the Riparian Bird Conservation Plan

Point Blue contact: Mark Dettling

How you can help:

Support and participate in riparian restoration in California’s Central Valley. 

Visit these partner organizations' website to learn about more ways to help: The Nature Conservancy, River Partners, Sacramento River NWR

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Bank Swallow

Current status:

Listed as  California Threatened Species. Much (70-90%) of the current population nests in colonies along the Sacramento and Feather Rivers.  The population of Bank Swallows has been monitored by counting burrows along the river.  The number of burrows on the Sacramento River has trended downward from 24,580 burrows in 1986 to 15,000 burrows in 2012. Burrow numbers on the Feather River have also declined, from almost 6,600 in 1987 to 2,320 in 2012.

Habitat:

Nest on banks and bluffs in areas along rivers, lakes, and oceans. Along the Sacramento and Feather Rivers, most colonies are located on eroding river banks. Thus, the presence of this species is an indicator of the healthy riparian ecosystem that results from a river’s lateral movement within the floodplain.

Cause of decline:

The decline of the Bank Swallow population in California coincides with the increase of rock revetment placed on the banks of the Sacramento River to prevent the river’s lateral movement. Nesting Bank Swallows have also been affected by the installation of dams that have changed the amount and timing of flows in the river.

Current primary threats:

Despite the listing and subsequent adoption of the Recovery Plan, the Bank Swallow population on the Sacramento River has continued to decline and remains vulnerable to ongoing bank stabilization and flood control projects.

What we’re doing about it:

Point Blue Conservation Science works to protect Bank Swallows through the The Bank Swallow Technical Advisory Committee.  This committee is a diverse coalition of State and federal agency and non-governmental organization personnel.  Their mission is to promote collaborative long-term conservation and recovery of the Bank Swallow along the Sacramento River, its tributaries, and other areas throughout California by coordinating and supporting monitoring and research, habitat restoration and management, and outreach and education.

Learn more:

Visit the Bank Swallow Technical Advisory Committee website

Point Blue contact: Nat Seavy

How you can help:

Support river restoration that will protect and restore natural river processes that contribute to the ecosystem services that our rivers provide: nutrient transport, fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, and flood protection.

Stewardship of the Bank Swallow is one step toward managing our floodplains and rivers in a way that provides benefits for people and wildlife.

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Ashy Storm-Petrel

Current status:

California Species of Special Concern, candidate for federal ESA listing

Habitat:

Islands along coastal California and NW Mexico.  Half the world’s population (4,000- 9,000) breeds on the Farallon Islands

Causes of decline:

Predation on adults while at breeding colonies, climate change impacts to ocean food web, ocean pollution, invasive species on islands, human disturbance at sea and on islands

Current primary threats:

On the Farallon Islands, predation by burrowing owls to adults is resulting in significant impacts on the growth rate of this population;  Burrowing Owls presence on the Farallones is enhanced by the presence of non-native house mice

What we’re doing about it:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Point Blue Conservation Science, and Island Conservation are partnering together to investigate ways to strengthen Ashy-Storm Petrel and other native seabird populations on the islands by removing invasive house mice.  If invasive species are removed from islands, island ecosystems can often recover quickly and be more resilient to increasing climate change impacts.

Learn more:

Visit the Restore the Farallones website

Point Blue contact: Russ Bradley

How you can help:

Download, use and share our Seabird Aware brochure

Learn more at the Restore the Farallones website.

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California Least Tern

Current status:

State and federally endangered since 1971 and 1970, respectively

Habitat:

Sandy beaches, near-shore ocean waters

Causes of decline:

Loss of and disturbance at beach habitat, ocean pollution

Current primary threat(s):

Avian predators, loss of open habitat to development and encroaching vegetation

What we’re doing about it: 

Since 2000, Point Blue Conservation Science has been involved in studies of the federally and state listed, endangered California Least Tern colony that began breeding at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California in 1976.

Currently, Point Blue concentrates on studying Least Tern diet and foraging.  The San Francisco Bay is an important fish spawning area and nursery, and the Least Tern (a small fish-eating bird) can provide information on the timing of spawning and relative abundances of different fish species.

Learn more: 

Visit The State of the Birds San Francisco Bay 2011 and explore the reports and publications below:

Using seabird long-term data for monitoring the state of the San Francisco Bay Estuary
Breeding Biology and Status of the California Least Tern at Alameda Point

Download a copy of the Pocket Guide to San Francisco Bay Birds

Download a copy of our Pocket Guide to Beach Birds of California.

Download our Helping Birds on West Coast Beaches handout.

Point Blue contact: Meredith Elliott

How you can Help:

Visit The State of the Birds San Francisco Bay 2011.

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Black Tern

Current status:

Species of moderate concern in the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan; California Bird Species of Special Concern

Habitat:

Nests in shallow, highly productive emergent wetlands or their equivalents. In northeastern California, breeds primarily in low-stature spikerush or juncus marshes. In the Central Valley, most birds now breed in cultivated rice fields.  Breeding is infrequent in managed marshes in the Sacramento Valley; and, mainly in very wet years, in other flooded agricultural fields with residual crops or weeds or other low-stature wetlands in the San Joaquin Valley.  Birds migrate broadly across North and Middle America to wintering grounds mainly in marine and marine-coastal areas of Middle and northern South America.

Causes of decline:

Habitat loss and population declines, particularly in the Central Valley of California

Current primary threat(s):

Shortages or inappropriate timing of water delivery to refuges and agricultural areas leading to reduced breeding habitat for terns; disturbance from human recreation in wetland areas during breeding months 

What we’re doing about it:

Point Blue scientists have conducted surveys to document the size of the population, and species distribution in California, as well as broad-scale patterns of habitat use. We also work to get the word out through publications in journals, species designation as a species of special concern, inclusion in California Bird Conservation Region 32 waterbird conservation plan, creation of a brochure for California Rice Commission, etc.

Learn more:

Read the Black Tern Species Account by Point Blue's W. David Shuford in the California Bird Species of Special Concern publication.

Read the publication, Breeding Status of the Black tern in California, Shuford et.al, Western Birds 32:189-217, 2001

View, download and share the Black Tern California Rice Species in Focus brochure co-created by Point Blue staff and the California Rice Commission.

Point Blue contact: W. David Shuford

How you can Help:

View, download and share the Black Tern California Rice Species in Focus brochure co-created by Point Blue staff and the California Rice Commission.

Support restoration, preservation and conservation work of wetland areas in California and beyond.

Support protection of key stopover areas, such as Tule Lake and the Salton Sea.

Support research of Black Tern ecology in California.

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Steller Sea Lion

Current status:

Western population (central and western Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, Japan and Russia) federally endangered; eastern population (southeast Alaska, British Columbia, California, and Oregon)  federally threatened; throughout range, US Marine Mammal Protection Act depleted

Habitat:

Colder temperate to sub-arctic waters of the North Pacific Ocean. Haul outs and rookeries usually consist of beaches (gravel, rocky or sand), ledges, rocky reefs. In the Bering Sea and Okhotsk Sea, sea lions may also haul out on sea ice, but this is considered atypical behavior.

Causes of decline:

Hunting for meat, fur, oil etc. in the 1800's; killing and placing bounties on this species, which fishermen blamed for stealing fish from them in the early 1900's; killing to limit their predation on fish in aquaculture facilities (fish farms), but intentional killing of Steller sea lions has not been permitted since they were protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and listed under the ESA (not since 1972)

Current primary threat(s):

Boat/ ship strikes; contaminants/ pollutants; habitat degradation; illegal hunting/ shooting; offshore oil and gas exploration; interactions (direct and indirect) with fisheries

What we’re doing about it:

Point Blue has conducted weekly, year-round, ground-based pinniped (seal and sea lion) censuses at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge’s (FNWR) since the early 1970’s, which have included estimation of Steller sea lions by age class.  This is one important aspect of our effort researching and stewarding the FNWR's unique natural resources every day and night since 1968, in partnership with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). With over 40 years of continuous work on the FNWR, we have produced hundreds of peer reviewed scientific publications and made valuable scientific contributions to address management challenges including human disturbance, fishing bycatch, oil pollution, and establishing state marine protected areas.  We are continuing our long-term monitoring efforts and applying our scientific results to conservation efforts of Steller Sea Lions and other marine animals and plants on and around the refuge. 

Learn more:

View a special highlight document on Steller Sea Lions put together by Point Blue biologist Ryan Berger.

Visit and follow our Los Farallones blog for updates on Steller Sea Lions and other wildlife and work on the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge.

Point Blue contact: Ryan Berger

How you can Help:

Only eat seafood that is being sustainably harvested, using various guides available to the public, such as seafood watch.

Report sightings of injured seals and sea lions to: Marine Mammal Center’s hotline number of 415-289-SEAL, for the local bay area.

Support marine conservation efforts and work, such as Marine Protected Area legislation, local beach clean-ups, sustainable fishing efforts, ecological research.

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Northern Fur Seal

Current status:

Vulnerable under the IUCN Red List and Depleted under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act

Habitat:

Rocky coastal areas, islands and ocean waters

Causes of decline:

Overhunting for pelts

Current primary threat(s):

Predation, changes in food availability, entanglement in fishing nets, habitat loss or alteration, disturbance, climate change, pollution

What we’re doing about it:

Point Blue has collaborated to champion protection efforts with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), resulting in the return of northern fur seals to breed in 1996 at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge for the first time in over 150 years. In 2011 at least 180 northern fur seal pups were born on the island, and the following fall we counted 476 animals onshore—a phenomenal 69% increase over 2010.  In 2012 our high count of total Northern Fur Seals increased by 9%, from 476 counted in 2011 to 521 in 2012. They continue to increase, and Southeast Farallon Island is currently the only breeding colony south of Alaska besides San Miguel. Numbers will likely continue to increase, as huge numbers of breeders are moving into areas we can see from the lighthouse, one of our survey areas on the Island (we’ve never seen that before).  We are continuing our long-term monitoring efforts and applying our scientific results to conservation efforts of Northern Fur Seals, other marine animals and and thei.

Learn more:

Visit and follow our Los Farallones blog for updates on Northern Fur Seals and other wildlife and work on the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge.

Point Blue contact: Ryan Berger

How you can Help:

Only eat seafood that is being sustainably harvested, using various guides available to the public, such as seafood watch.

Report sightings of injured seals and sea lions to: Marine Mammal Center’s hotline number of 415-289-SEAL, for the local bay area.

Support marine conservation efforts and work, such as Marine Protected Area legislation, local beach clean-ups, sustainable fishing efforts, ecological research.

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