Each year from March through September, tiny western snowy plover chicks appear on beaches along California's coast. Once numbering in the thousands, the U.S. Pacific coast population of these plovers was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993 due to habitat destruction, loss of nesting areas and damage from non-native and native predators.

Snowy plover chicks

We work with local and regional parks and avian conservation groups to rescue abandoned, threatened or damaged eggs and chicks during the breeding season. These are incubated and reared for release. Since 2000 we've reared 71 chicks, including 41 that hatched from eggs; 51 of these were fledged, banded and released at remote Monterey Bay beaches. In addition, between 2006 and 2008, our husbandry aviculture team helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 120 birds representing 25 species in cooperation with the SPCA of Monterey County, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center.

The expertise and experience of our aviculture staff proved vitally important in the response to two recent California oil spills. The November 2007 accident involving the M/V Cosco Busan in San Francisco Bay affected sea birds in central and northern California and a "mystery spill" involved seabirds in Monterey Bay. Working with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, our team cared for sick and oiled birds, preparing them for the long and stressful washing process by stabilizing them with fluids and food to help them gain the strength needed to survive.