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Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) Conservation Action Plan

Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) Conservation Action Plan

Species Description The

Species Description The Reddish Egret is the rarest and least known of the egrets and herons of North America. The population lies within a narrow latitudinal range extending east from the Baja California peninsula, including the Gulf of California, the Yucatan Peninsula, the northern coast of Gulf of Mexico to peninsular Florida and islands in the Caribbean basin, namely Bahamas and Cuba. The global population of Reddish Egrets is estimated to be 5,000 – 7,000 individuals, with 3,500 to 4,250 breeding pairs. The Reddish Egret is an international resource, with Mexico and the U.S. appearing to support about equally the bulk of the global breeding population, complemented by a number of Central American and Caribbean nations. Despite its large range, the Reddish Egret occupies a restricted belt of coastal habitat, is patchily distributed and has a relatively small and declining global population. Accordingly there is broad agreement that the Reddish Egret is in need of our conservation effort. Status Reddish Egrets are federally listed as a species of special concern in Mexico (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, SEMARNAT 2010) and as a Bird of Conservation Concern in the U.S. (USFWS 2008). Likewise, it was identified as a regional priority species in need of Critical Recovery or Immediate Management in the 2006 Southeast U.S. Waterbird Conservation Plan (Hunter et al. 2006). The species is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and labeled as “red,” or species of greatest conservation concern, on Audubon’s Watchlist due to its moderately small population and suspected population declines (Butcher et al. 2007, IUCN 2009). Given that there are two subspecies of Reddish Egret, and that threats and management situations vary greatly across the hemispheric range of the species, three management units – Eastern, Central, and Western – were identified for purposes of conservation planning. Direct threats to Reddish Egret Populations and Habitats • Elevated predation from predators associated with human activities • Human disturbance due to recreational and commercial activities • Habitat shifting and alteration from sea-level rise and subsidence • Increased frequency and intensity of storms and flooding • Tourism and residential development • Coastal engineering • Marine transportation • Energy development • Invasive species • Local ranching and other land use activities • Shrimp aquaculture Goals Population Goals Area Eastern Management Unit Central Management Unit Western Management Unit Current Population Estimate Population Goals 700 breeding pairs 1,400 breeding pairs 2,750 breeding pairs 4,600 breeding pairs 800 breeding pairs 1,500 breeding pairs Global Population 4,250 breeding pairs 7,500 breeding pairs Objectives Associated with Strategies Nesting Habitat Goals • Interim Goal: Establish, maintain and increase habitat at focal colony sites, defined as the locations that should be priorities for collective conservation effort. A list of the proposed focal colony sites is available at the reddishegret.org website. • Anticipated Goal: A quantitative goal for focal colony sites. Foraging Habitat Goals • Interim Goal: Identify and protect foraging areas • Anticipated Goal: A quantitative goal for focal foraging areas. The Working Group is committed to compiling and mapping information on known foraging areas and identifying potential, currently unknown, areas. CONCEPTUAL MODEL FOR REDDISH EGRET CONSERVATION The conceptual model is a graphic summary of how the Reddish Egret Working Group envisions the context within which it is working and is used to brainstorm potential conservation strategies. It represents the Working Group’s common understanding of the overall situation surrounding conservation efforts for the Reddish Egret and its habitats (conservation targets), the main direct threats, and the social, cultural, political and economic factors that are contributing to those threats. This visual representation includes the conservation targets, critical threats, contributing factors, and strategies. Using the conceptual model to prioritize factors most in need of influence, the working group seeks to understand where intervention is necessary and/or effective – and also where it is not. Develop and implement long-term monitoring of populations to support better decision-making at all scales OBJECTIVES: • By November 2013, the Reddish Egret Working Group has compiled existing knowledge on focal breeding sites, including the nature and level of specific threats. • By this time, the group will have reached consensus on and applied criteria for the selection of focal colonies. By November 2013, the Reddish Egret Working Group will have mapped known foraging areas based on existing data, and begun modeling potential, but unconfirmed foraging areas. • By 2015, the Reddish Egret Working Group has undertaken field studies to fill in gaps in knowledge about Reddish Egret populations and their habitats across the range. This work will focus particularly on birds occurring in Caribbean and Central America as well as on confirming use of and threats to foraging areas throughout the range. • By 2015, the Reddish Egret Working Group has reached consensus on criteria for focal foraging areas and applied these to available maps. • By December 2013, the Reddish Egret Working Group has developed standardized protocols for counting breeding pairs on colonies, counting wintering birds, resightings, breeding habitat and foraging habitat. • By December 2013, a REEG Clearinghouse is established, a protocol for data entry is developed, and existing data input into the Clearinghouse. Actively manage factors directly affecting reddish egret populations OBJECTIVES: Invasive Species • Beginning in 2015, exotic fauna are actively managed and their effects are minimized on at least 75% of focal breeding sites affected by exotic fauna. Predation Rates • Beginning in 2015, all focal colonies are being monitored for the presence of predators. • Beginning in 2015, predators are controlled on at least 75% of focal colonies. • By 2016, fisherman in priority areas where offal disposal presents a problem are aware of the impacts of improper offal disposal on predation of Reddish Egret. Disturbance/Direct Harvest • By 2016, recreational boaters/fisherman/photographers/ resource managers in priority areas where disturbance is a problem are aware of impacts to Reddish Egret. • Human disturbance trend is reduced by 25% by 5 years after launching outreach/enforcement campaigns. • By 2016, target groups participating in chick harvesting and egging activity are made aware so that they understand the status of Reddish Egret and the impact of this activity. • By 2016, chick harvesting and egging activity is reduced by 50 % 2 | REDDISH EGRET CONSERVATION ACTION PLAN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY www.reddishegret.org REDDISH EGRET CONSERVATION ACTION PLAN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY www.reddishegret.org | 3

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