STATUS: Endangered without critical habitat.|
DESCRIPTION: A hen-sized marsh bird that is long-legged, long-toed. It is about 36 cm long and ahsa long, slightly down-curved beak and a short, upturned tail. Coloring is same for both sexes. Their cinnamon breast contrast with the streaked plumage of its grayish brown back and gray and white barred flanks. They are nonmigratory residents of coastal southern California.
HABITAT: They live year round in dense vegetation within coastal salt and brackish amrshes, especially among cordgrass and pickleweed. In fact, the greater the abundance of cordgrass, the larger the population is likely to be. The birds also reside and nest in freshwater marshes although this is not common.
Present: Similar to historic range, but the bird is found in only a fraction of he marshes it once occupied. The rail has been absent from Los Angeles Copunty since the 1960's and may be extirpated from Sanat Barbara County as well. The largest number light-footed clapper rails, about 55% of the state breeding population, reside in Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve in Orange County. Others occupy marshes in the Kendall-Frost Mission Bay marsh Reserve, San Diego River Flood Control Channel, San Elijo Lagoon, South Bay Marine Rserve, Sweetwater Marsh, and Tijuana marsh, all in San Diego County. The rails also reside in Seal Beach Natioanl Wildlife Refuge in Orange County and in Mugu Lagoon in Ventura County.
THREATS AND/OR REASONS FOR DECLINE: Loss, degradation, and fragmentation of salt-marsh habitat; dredging and filling for port, harbor, marina, housing and industrial development have significantly reduced salt-marsh habitat between Santa Barabara and the U.S.-Mexican border; threatened by disturbance, diesease contaminants like DDT, and predation by nonnative red foxes.
Historic: Light-footed clapper rail historically inhabited coastal marshes from Santa Barbara County south into Baja California, Mexico, as far as San Quintin Bay.
OTHER INFORMATION: They feed upon a wide variety of prey, including insects, small fish, snails and other aquatic invertebrates, and some plant material. Nest anytime from mid-March to mid-August. Incubation nest is typically built in aboveground vegetation. They weave the outside edges of the nest into the surrounding live cordgrass. Females lay 4-8eggs, which hatch in 18-27 days. After a day or two the hatchlings can go foraging with parents but are still fed by parents for several weeks.
Life on the Edge. Biosystems Books 1994. Santa Cruz, California