SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA – It may not be the most intuitive place for an endangered species to recover, but the staff of the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton have worked hard to protect habitat for the least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus).
The project has been a collaborative effort between biologists from the USGS Western Ecological Research Center (WERC), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Marine Corps.
The least Bell’s vireo was once common throughout its range extending from California to northern Baja California, Mexico. However, brood parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird, in which a female cowbird lays her eggs in the nests of other species, and other threats caused least Bell’s vireo numbers to decline significantly. By the time it was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1986, scientists estimated that only 300 breeding pairs remained in California.
Since then, the Marine Corps has worked closely with WERC’s Dr. Barbara Kus and team to identify and conserve important habitats for the least Bell’s vireo. In 2017, the number of breeding pairs at Camp Pendleton was six times what it was before the listing.
Dr. Kus and colleagues are studying the genetics, distribution, ecology, and demography of the least Bell’s vireo from southern California to Baja California. Learn more about how their findings are guiding the recovery of this endangered bird on our website.
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