We assessed the reproductive success of the California Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris obsoletus), an endangered subspecies restricted to San Francisco Bay, and the relative importance of predation, flooding, and contaminants as factors affecting that success. Our study was conducted in six tidal marshes in the northern and southern reaches of San Francisco Bay. This assessment, conducted in four breeding seasons (1991, 1992, 1998, 1999), determined that productivity of California Clapper Rails was much reduced over the natural potential. Only 69% of clapper rail eggs whose viability could be assessed were viable. Hatchability of eggs in North Bay and South Bay marshes was 65% and 70%, respectively. Only 45% of the nests successfully hatched at least one egg. Despite mean clutch sizes of 6.7 and 6.9 in the North and South bays, respectively, clapper rails produced only 1.9 and 2.5 young per nesting attempt. Flooding was a minor factor, reducing the number of eggs available to hatch by only 2.3%. Predation on eggs was a major factor affecting nest success, reducing productivity by a third. Failed eggs were examined for abnormal development and contaminant concentrations. Contamination appeared to adversely influence California Clapper Rail reproductive success, as evidenced by deformities; embryo hemorrhaging; embryo malpositions; a depressed rate of hatchability; excess concentrations of mercury, barium, and chromium over known avian embryotoxic thresholds; and a correlation of deformities with elevated concentrations of some trace elements in eggs that failed to hatch. Mercury was the only significant contaminant common to all marshes. ?? The American Ornithologists' Union, 2006.
Additional publication details
Effects of predation, flooding, and contamination on reproductive success of California Clapper Rails (Rallus longirostris obsoletus) in San Francisco Bay