VENICE (CBS) — It’s been no day at the beach for an endangered California shore bird hoping to stave off extinction for the last four decades.

KNX 1070’s John Brooks reports the crow is the latest threat to the gains made by least terns along Venice Beach.

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In 1970, there were only about 600 least terns in the whole state, but today with protected nesting areas like the one at Venice Beach, there are about 13,000 of these small birds laying their eggs in the sand.

The rapid growth of the 8-to-9-inch birds — which sport a signature black “crown” on their head, a snow-colored underside, orange legs, and a yellow bill with a black tip — has left the least tern on the verge of being de-listed and downgraded from endangered to threatened.

But biologist Wally Ross with the California Fish and Game Department is concerned that crows are stealing and eating the eggs, leaving officials with few options.

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“There’s really not much that can be done here, it’s in such a highly visible area,” said Ross.

Even with about 40 fenced-off nesting sites located along beaches statewide, crows frequently swoop down, grab an egg from the least tern, and eat it, as Ross himself observed at Venice Beach.

“The birds are sitting in a very small little site and they become a target for predators, mostly crows,” he said.

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But while Ross said crows have been killed at more remote locations to spare the least tern’s eggs, that strategy has not be considered as an option at Venice.