Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

August 26, 2020

Seabirds in Distress: Penguin Look-alikes Showing Up On Northern California Beaches; 200 Common Murres Have Come Into Care

Russ Curtis

A surge of seabirds beaching themselves along Northern California is overwhelming International Bird Rescue’s wildlife center. This summer over 200 sick Common Murres have been rescued and come into care. The birds – which resemble penguins but are more closely related to puffins – need a tremendous amount of care and Bird Rescue is asking the public for support.

Dubbed “Bill Murray” for his Groundhog Day reference, this Common Murre, who was treated in 2015, was rescued and came back in care in August 2020. Photo: Isabel Luevano – International Bird Rescue

While seabird strandings are not unheard of, what is most concerning for the Bird Rescue team, is that mass murre beaching events are occurring more often in recent years. Back in 2015, there was a very troubling crisis with more than 460 murres being brought into care. Thus far, the season’s trend seems foreboding – as dozens of distressed murres are being brought into care almost daily this month at its San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center in Fairfield.  

In fact, one of the birds from the 2015 murre crisis was back in care again this summer.  This time, within a few days, he was restored to full strength as a breeding age male, helped to babysit some young birds in our pools, and was released healthy once again to the wild. The staff dubbed this murre “Bill Murray” for his Groundhog Day like return to our center at the same point in the year. 

Since June, adult and younger Common Murres have filled Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

This is the time of year when Common Murres fledge from their offshore breeding sites and typically wait out in the cold turbulent water for their parents to bring them food. However, when they’re starving, cold, or in distress, murres of any age will beach themselves on wide open shorelines. For a murre, sandy beaches are a refuge to rest and warm themselves after prolonged exposure in cold water. 

Young Common Murre vocalizes standing on pool haul out. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

Just as human Californians are flocking to beaches in droves to cool themselves at the ocean’s edge – they are discovering penguin-like, black-and-white pelagic birds waddling and laying on the beach! The majority of the incoming murres seem to be beaching themselves on the Santa Cruz County coastline, but struggling murres have also been spotted at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, and as far north as Humboldt County. 

With its long-standing motto “Every Bird Matters”, International Bird Rescue cares for all waterbirds in distress. Their team is endeavoring to save and restore as many of those stranded individual animals to good health as they possibly can. During August, dozens of these birds have been arriving almost daily in need of Bird Rescue’s expertise.

At this time, avian and ocean scientists cannot be certain of the cause of this round of the murres’ struggles.  

What IS certain is that large numbers of live native penguin-lookalike seabirds are in need of help right now. Bird Rescue appeals to the compassion in everyone who values California’s wildlife and complex coastal ecosystems to contribute to the intense care for so many of these struggling seabirds. Murres require a lot of specialized care, including quality fish and deep recovery pools for rehabilitation, which is an expense burden for the non-profit agency.

One other thing that’s pretty heartwarming is that adult murres who are in care at Bird Rescue tend to behave like foster parents to any fledgling murres sharing their recovery pools at the specialized avian facilities at Bird Rescue. Their voices are very endearing as they call out to each other. People can watch adults and young swimming together on the webcam at Bird Rescue.

Support Bird Rescue’s work with a donation.

https://www.bird-rescue.org/get-involved/donate
August 8, 2020

Great Egrets Released with GPS Trackers To Aid in Waterbird Research

Russ Curtis

 Great Egret released with a special GPS tracker and colored leg band

Before release on July 31, 2020, this orphaned Great Egret arrived in care dehydrated and emaciated. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

The recent release of Great Egrets raised by International Bird Rescue and outfitted with special Global Positioning System (GPS) trackers will aid in the research of this majestic waterbird species.

The GPS backpack was provided and fitted by our friends from Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR) as part of a study of the movements and migrations by Great Egrets. ACR is tracking these birds’ movements to learn more about their interactions with wetland ecosystems to better inform their conservation efforts.

Capturing healthy egrets in the wild is extremely difficult, so ACR Director of Conservation Science, Nils Warnock, reached out to invite Bird Rescue to collaborate. Great Egrets getting released would be outfitted with trackers to help ACR expand its study population. A backpack is fitted onto a strong and healthy Great Egret and monitored for a couple of days prior to release to make sure that it won’t cause any issues for the bird.

Not only does this partnership allow us to aid in important habitat conservation research, it also gives us the opportunity to learn where our patients go and how they behave post-release. So far, two Great Egrets have been released from Bird Rescue with GPS transmitters as part of this study.

You can learn more about the project and see a map of the birds’ movements at https://www.egret.org/heron-egret-telemetry-project

Great Egret flies off with attached GPS that will aid in research. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

July 27, 2020

International Bird Rescue Announces Two New Board Members

Bird Rescue Staff

International Bird Rescue is excited to announce the election of two new members to its Board of Directors. The newly elected Board members are Elizabeth Kinney and Dave Westerholm.

“I am pleased to welcome our two newest members to the Board of Directors,” said JD Bergeron, Bird Rescue’s Executive Director.  “They both bring a unique background and diverse experiences that make them an asset to the Board and to the organization as a whole.”

Elizabeth Kinney

Elizabeth Kinney leads communications across Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) North America Home Care business, which includes brands such as Dawn, Cascade, Swiffer and Febreze. She has spent the past nine years at P&G, working across the company in a variety of roles, including corporate media, sustainability, Fabric Care communications, and on P&G’s ‘Thank You Mom’ program. She has a Bachelor’s degree from DePauw University in Indiana, and a Masters in Strategic Communications from American University in Washington, D.C. She is located in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lives with her husband, Doug.

Dave Westerholm photo
Dave Westerholm

Dave Westerholm is currently consulting having recently retired from NOAA where he served over 11 years as a Senior Executive and Director of the Office of Response and Restoration. He led national operational programs in Emergency Response, Marine Debris, Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) and Disaster Preparedness. Prior to NOAA, he had 5 years of corporate experience as Senior Operations Director and Vice President with Anteon and General Dynamics, where he managed portfolios in Maritime Security, IT, Policy and Communications. He is a retired Coast Guard Captain with over 27 years of experience in a variety of fields including maritime safety, port security and environmental protection with his last assignment being Coast Guard’s Chief of Response. He also served as Vice Chair of the National Response Team and Chair of several interagency and industry partnerships focused on emergency response and oil and hazardous material spill research. He holds a science degree from Temple University and a Masters from the University of Michigan.

Bird Rescue’s 2020 Board of Directors is:

Officers:

  • Toni Arkoosh Pinsky; Board Chair; Community Leader
  • John Sifling; Vice Chair & Treasurer; Principal, Broad Reach Maritime, U.S. Coast Guard Retired
  • Ron Morris; Secretary & Immediate Past Chair; U.S. Coast Guard Retired

Directors-at-large:

  • Carmine Dulisse; President & CEO, Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC)
  • Elizabeth Kinney; Procter & Gamble NA
  • Dr. Maria Hartley; Chevron; Adjunct Professor, Rice University
  • Dr. Ian Robinson; Retired Veterinarian
  • Beth Slatkin; Director of Marketing and Outreach, Bay Nature
  • Dave Westerholm; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Retired
July 22, 2020

New Scientific Paper Published: Caspian Terns Saved, Rehabilitated, and Released by International Bird Rescue Are Surviving and Breeding!

Julie Skoglund

Bird Rescue is proud to announce the publication of an important scientific paper on a rescue-and-rehabilitation effort that led to a notable success: the post-release survival and breeding of a group of Caspian Terns in Southern California.

The paper was published in 2020 Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences.

The story began in 2006 and 2007 in the Port of Long Beach, one of the busiest shipping ports on the west coast and near a favored breeding colony locale for both Caspian and Elegant Terns in southern California. In both years, disastrous events threatened the lives of tern chicks born in the Port of Long Beach.

In 2006, workers cleaning the deck of a barge deliberately flushed Caspian Tern chicks—too young to survive independently—into the Pacific Ocean. In 2007, suspected human disturbances caused another group of tern chicks to wind up floundering in the water. Fortunately, Bird Rescue was able to rescue some of these young birds and take them into care at its Los Angeles Wildlife Center.

Read: Rare Tern Colony Decimated in Long Beach, CA

The fact that these chicks were able to survive and breed after release is especially noteworthy because terns pose unique challenges for rehabilitators. Adult terns typically nest in colonies and are plunge-divers, which means they raise their young communally and they hunt by hovering over the water in flight, spotting fish below the surface, and then plunging into the water to catch their prey. Becoming effective at feeding in this fashion requires training and practice, so young terns spend many months flying with and being guided and supplementally fed by their parents to master this skill well enough to survive on their own. Unfortunately, this type of learning is pretty much impossible to replicate in captivity. Conservation efforts that work well with other species of birds, such as captive rearing for wild release, are not suitable for terns. And the situation is made more desperate by the fact that critically endangered tern species population numbers continue to drop: tern colonies remain vulnerable to environmental disasters and human disturbances that disrupt breeding for an entire colony, or kill all of its young of the year at once.

Photo of Caspian Terns in care after rescue in 2006 at International Bird Rescue's Los Angeles Wildlife Center

Caspian Terns in care after rescue in July 2006 at Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center. They were later released back to the wild in August. Photo: International Bird Rescue

Bird Rescue pioneered a unique, “natural” method for turning the rescued chicks into capable, self-sufficient adult terns. The fact that some of the rescued chicks have been seen as adults, alive and in breeding colonies years later, is a strong sign of the effort’s success. With Bird Rescue’s care and help, these chicks overcame their traumatic early life. These very young birds learned to fend for themselves and survive, and were able to breed successfully as adults. This validates the care regimen at Bird Rescue and gives us hope for future populations.

As rehabilitators, we feel proud knowing that our extensive rehabilitation efforts were a success. We also want to acknowledge the expert collaborative help we received from ornithologist Dr. Charlie Collins, Professor Emeritus at California State University of Long Beach.

To understand how we solved the challenges of rehabilitating these terns, please read Survival and Recruitment of Rehabilitated Caspian Terns in Southern California.

The final paper was published in the 2020 Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences.

July 16, 2020

Rescued Snowy Plover Now A Monterey Aquarium Ambassador Bird

Russ Curtis

Snowy Plover in care at International Bird Rescue

Snowy Plover before it was moved to Monterey Bay aquarium. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

The Snowy Plover that came into care back in May 2020 is now at its forever home at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This tiny shorebird had its wing surgically pinned and later, physical therapy, but unfortunately the bird was deemed non releasable due to inadequate flight. His bone healed but his patagium – that web of skin that connects the shoulder to the wrist on the wing – was too scarred to allow for normal elbow movement.

The adult male Western Snowy Plover was rescued by a biologist from San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory at the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Union City, CA. On arrival, radiographs revealed the bird had suffered a bad wing fracture, with his humerus bone in 3 pieces, plus it had a lacerated patagium. Humerus fractures generally require surgical pinning if a wild bird is to have any hope of ever being able to fly again. Read more

The bird’s wing was pinned in a delicate surgery at our San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center. Such a surgery is a challenge due to the miniscule size of the patient.  Our team was especially focused on trying to repair this bird’s injuries, as the status of Western Snowy Plovers is Species of Special Concern within California, and Threatened status on the Endangered Species list.

See media story: Rare bird in care at International Bird Rescue, San Francisco Chronicle

July 10, 2020

Webinar: The Great Penguin Rescue: What We Learned At Treasure Oil Spill

Russ Curtis

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the extraordinary rescue and rehabilitation of 20,000 oiled penguins at the Treasure oil spill in South Africa. The response team from International Bird Rescue was one of the key organizations providing its expertise and passion to make this one of the most successful wildlife responses in the world/

Join us on July 23, 2020 at 5:30 PM (PST) for a webinar, as two of team’s top level responders, Barbara Callahan and Mark Russell, as they share their remembrances of this three month endeavor. Russ Curtis, Communications with Bird Rescue and a volunteer penguin tender at the spill, will moderate.

Register now for this Zoom webinar.

SPEAKERS

Barbara Callahan
Response Services Director @International Bird Rescue

Barbara Callahan

Barbara is an internationally-experienced and recognized emergency response and management professional who received her B. S. in Biological Science from the University of Alaska. She has worked in oiled wildlife response, response management and rehabilitation of aquatic animals over the course of 20 years and is certified in Federal Emergency Management. Barbara has been Response Services Director at Bird Rescue since 1997.

Mark Russell
Response Team Member @International Bird Rescue

Mark Russell

During the 2000 Treasure spill in South Africa, Mark Russell was on Bird Rescue’s leadership team working at the Salt River response center. He has been involved in oiled wildlife response since 1990 when he helped on the American Trader spill in Southern California. He has held a variety of roles at Bird Rescue including managing the Los Angeles Wildlife Center. He holds a B.S. Degree in Ecology from San Francisco State University and is working on a M.S. in Avian Parasitology.

July 1, 2020

Stuck In The Mud, Struggling Brown Pelican Saved By Community Rescuers

Bird Rescue Staff

A rescue team from Alameda Fire Department, guided by a concerned citizen, capture a Brown Pelican tethered to discarded fishing tackle and stuck in the mudflats. Photos: Cindy Margulis – International Bird Rescue

A Brown Pelican in Alameda, CA that was stuck in the mud and tethered to discarded fishing tackle is alive today and in care at International Bird Rescue after a heartwarming community rescue effort.

On June 23th a newly retired Lincoln Middle School teacher, Sharmaine Moody, noticed a Brown Pelican that appeared to be stuck in the offshore mudflat between the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary and the Bay Farm Bridge during low tide. As it struggled to get airborne, other pelicans became alarmed and kept circling in the air over the young bird. Eventually the other pelicans left to forage elsewhere, but Sharmaine kept returning to monitor the stranded pelican at different tidal conditions to try to ensure there would be a chance for a boat rescue to work in a higher tide.

After rescue, the Brown Pelican was transferred to a large transport carrier and driven to Bird Rescue’s wildlife center in Fairfield.

A call was made to the Alameda Fire Department for help rescuing this pelican in peril. When Battalion Chief David Buckley was confident there was sufficient fire coverage in town on June 24th, he deployed Alameda’s Rescue Boat 01 crew, manned by firefighters Ty, Roland, & Nick. As soon as their Zodiac approached the pelican, they realized how stranded this poor bird was. When they tried to lift the pelican with a net, they felt the tug of the entanglement beneath it, preventing them from getting the bird out of the water. An assortment of fishing gear, including wads of monofilament line, had to be cut off before they were able to bring the pelican up into the rescue craft. Back at the boat launch, even more fishing gear had to be cut away to get the pelican out of the net.

In care at our center in Fairfield: Brown Pelican following rescue.

With the help of Sharmaine Moody and former Bird Rescue volunteer, Linda Vallee, the injured pelican was quickly transported to our San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center in Fairfield for emergency veterinary care. The young Brown Pelican is currently in serious but stable condition. It suffered severe constriction wounds to its leg and damage to its wings from the fishing line entanglement that will require many weeks in care to heal.

Special thanks are due to the Alameda Fire Department for their rescue heroics last week, as well as to Sharmaine Moody and Linda Vallee for keeping track of the pelican’s predicament until a rescue could be arranged. It truly takes a community to protect our natural world and the wildlife we share it with.

This case is not only a strong reminder of the needless suffering and bodily harm that stray fishing gear and monofilament fishing line can cause for wildlife, but also the positive impact individuals can have when they take action on behalf of animals in need.

Preventing Needless Suffering Starts Here

The Reel In and Recycle program is a good step towards encouraging recycling fishing line.

There are simple actions everyone can take to help prevent needless suffering for wildlife, including birds and marine mammals, and also reduce entrapment risks for swimmers in local shorelines, too. We encourage all fishermen to remove all their gear from the water and shoreline.

If you come across any discarded fishing line, make sure that it gets deposited into a proper receptacle. Alameda, and many other fishing locations throughout California have specialized bins for recycling monofilament, which are part of the national Reel In & Recycle Program.  When specialty receptacles aren’t available, you can cut the monofilament into small pieces and dispose of it in a lidded trash container. If you would like your local park or pier to implement a fishing line recycling program, contact your harbormaster or local parks department.

In recent years other bird species in nearby waters have been adversely affected by cast off fishing gear. Four Ospreys in the Alameda area have been entangled in fishing line and gear, including one confirmed to have died from its injuries.  Just last month, another local Osprey female at Alameda Point had to be trapped on her nest in order to remove an entanglement.

June 25, 2020

Wildlife Veterinary Internship Pilot Underway – Funding Sought for Future Rounds

Bird-Rescue

Veterinarian intern, Dr. Casey Martinez, working in surgery at the San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center.

In June, Bird Rescue welcomed Dr. Casey Martinez, recent graduate from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California-Davis, as the first participant in our professional wildlife veterinary internship program. Traditional veterinary programs offer very little guidance and training on working with wildlife and Bird Rescue aims to fill this gap. This innovative program is designed to provide advanced veterinary exposure to aquatic, wild bird care for new veterinary graduates as they embark on their veterinary careers.

Within weeks of graduating with her veterinary degree, Dr. Martinez started work at our Northern California Wildlife Center. She has settled into a productive and engaging routine working with our Director of Research and Veterinary Science, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, our clinic staff, and our pandemic-limited cadre of experienced volunteers. The veterinary internship focuses on medicine and surgery, physical examination to learn what is normal and abnormal for each species and their typical presentations, the distinctive husbandry needs of each species, necropsy with investigation into causes of death while learning species variation in anatomy, and exploring the scientific literature on the species typically cared for at Bird Rescue.

In addition to this spectrum of training, Dr. Martinez will also be managing data collection for a research project evaluating whether the use of sedatives in birds when they are washed is of benefit to their survival through care, a study we are conducting at both California centers in collaboration with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, our counterpart on the East Coast.

We are thrilled to have Dr. Casey Martinez on our team for this yearlong program and to be able to share with her the wealth of highly-specialized aquatic bird rehabilitation knowledge that Bird Rescue has gained through its nearly 50-year history. Aquatic wild bird care is a continuously evolving field, so this unique in-depth experience will benefit Dr. Martinez, Bird Rescue, as well as the wider wildlife rehabilitation community where Dr. Martinez hopes to practice for her career.

Our hope is that Bird Rescue’s year-long professional veterinary internship opportunity can be offered to more vet school graduates in coming years. We are actively seeking additional funding to transform this pilot initiative into an ongoing program. Ideally, we would love to host two professional veterinary internships each year, concurrently, at each of our California centers. If you would be interested in sponsoring this program, please contact Director of Philanthropy, Cindy Margulis, at cindy.margulis@birdrescue.org.

June 23, 2020

Patient of the Month: Western Gull

Dr. Rebecca Duerr

Western Gull seabird caught in fishing line

After swallowing a fishing hook a Western Gull awaits rescue at the harbor jetty in Half Moon Bay. Photo courtesy Bart Selby

A severely injured Western Gull, that was originally entangled and trapped by discarded fishing line and tackle, is back in the wild after heroic surgery and treatment by International Bird Rescue.

X-ray showing fish hook stuck in the Western Gull esophagus, right near the bird’s heart

X-ray shows fish hook stuck in Western Gull’s esophagus, right near the bird’s heart.

The Western Gull was spotted May 18, 2020 on the breakwater in Half Moon Bay, ensnared by fishing gear. Luckily, a local kayaker, Bart Selby, spotted the helpless bird on his way out to do a Brown Pelican survey around Pillar Point Harbor. He immediately took action and enlisted the help of nearby wardens from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to rescue the injured bird. It was critical the bird was captured quickly because in its entangled state, it was doomed to drown when the tide came in. From his kayak, Mr. Selby coached the warden, who was gingerly standing on the slippery rocks, as they carefully secured the gull with a towel and cut the fishing line that had been tethering the bird to the rocks. Were it not for the intervention of these valiant rescuers, the gull would certainly have died.

The gull was transported to the Peninsula Humane Society Wildlife Center for stabilization before being transferred to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center in Fairfield, CA for surgery to remove the hook that was lodged deep inside the bird.

Our team found that the hook was lodged in one of the worst spots in the esophagus, right near the bird’s heart (see radiograph). When a fish hook pokes through the wall of the esophagus at this area, it very often skewers the aorta or even the heart itself and the bird can bleed to death from the tip of the hook lacerating these irreplaceable structures.

The gull’s neck was opened to get to the hook wedged in the esophagus. Photo: Dr. Rebecca Duerr – International Bird Rescue

Unfortunately, the line had been swallowed, which meant the hook couldn’t be retrieved without surgery. So, on May 20, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, Director of Research & Veterinary Science, did just that, choosing the least invasive approach for extraction. She cut into the esophagus at the base of the neck. According to Dr Duerr, the surgery was quite nerve-wracking as the bird had an extremely abnormal heart rhythm as soon as she began to gently manipulate the hook. In addition, none of the instruments were quite long enough to both secure the hook and allow it to be moved out of the stretchy esophagus wall. Nevertheless, our wildlife clinic team was able to pull the bird through this tough procedure and successfully remove the hook, leaving the bird with just a small incision to heal in his neck.

The male gull healed fabulously and fast, and flew perfectly as soon as we put him into the center’s large outdoor aviary. Our team wanted to get him back to his mate as soon as possible. So, as soon as his skin incision healed, we arranged for release back at Half Moon Bay on June 5th. We hope he was reunited with his mate and may be working on producing the next generation of Western Gulls, and we hope he stays away from fishing gear!

Note: a high percentage of the rescued water birds that come into our clinics have been injured by fishing line and tackle injuries. The high cost of repairing these serious injuries is borne by Bird Rescue. Your generosity gives these wild birds a second chance. Please Donate now.

Whenever you’re near the water, please pick up and remove any stray fishing line and tackle from the environment to eliminate this menace for wildlife. Encourage fishermen to avoid casting into areas with birds visible in the water.

After life-saving surgery to remove a fishing hook, the Western Gull was released at Pillar Point Harbor. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

June 19, 2020

On Standby: Major Diesel Spill In Siberia

Bird-Rescue

Site of the Norilsk Nickel power plant fuel leak. See larger map

Nearly 50 years ago, International Bird Rescue was created to respond to oil spills. Our supporters have come to expect that when there is a sizable spill, we will be there to offer our expertise in crisis management and aquatic bird care. Unfortunately, that is not always possible and it is difficult for us to stand on the sidelines when wildlife is in danger.

On June 4, 2020, a massive fuel spill occurred in a remote area of Russia, as a diesel oil storage tank collapsed at the Norilsk Nickel power plant sending diesel into a river. It is believed that a prolonged heat wave melted permafrost beneath the storage tank’s footings. At least 21,000 metric tons of diesel fuel has stained the Ambanaya watershed in the Siberian Arctic ecosystem.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared a State of Emergency as that area is part of a watershed linked to the Arctic Ocean, but he has not thus far reached out for international support. See map

Emergency response of this scale is only possible with the invitation and cooperation of the government and a responsible party being willing to cover the costs.

Further, human safety is of utmost importance, and the needed resources to stand up a full-scale wildlife response can be next to impossible in a very remote location like this one.

While we have been in touch with our international partners, none has yet been asked to participate. This group includes leading experts trying to solve the challenges of oiled wildlife outside of currently covered geographies. Russia’s far north is a perfect example of an uncovered geography which the group was created to cover. At this point, reports suggest that workers are focused on containing and removing the fuel in a very remote area with few roads – more than 1200 miles NE of Moscow. We will remain on standby in case we are needed.

The kind of fuel that was spilled – diesel – is lighter and less easily corralled than heavier forms like crude oil (as was the case in the Deepwater Horizon Spill in 2010). Making things worse, diesel evaporates more slowly at cooler temperatures. This means both that initial harm to nearby wildlife would have been severe and, as with any petroleum product, animal welfare would continue to be a concern.

Going forward we continue to strive to work collaboratively on preparedness and planning along with petroleum companies, government entities, and other NGO partners to ensure wildlife emergency response efforts can save animals in harm’s way.

June 12, 2020

49 Bird-inspired Recipes To Sweeten Stay At Home Days

Russ Curtis

Do you love birds and want to support their care? Love to bake, too? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve got a whole volume of bird-inspired recipes to help sweeten these social distancing months for you and your loved ones!

Become a Bird Rescue Member now at the $49 level and we will send you a digital version of our “Sweet Tweets: 49 recipes for 49 years”. Your membership fee supports our work year-round saving water birds. And with the cookbook, you can bake up scrumptious treats to celebrate our 49th Anniversary with us, no matter where you are.

You’ll find recipes for how to make a flock of delicious goodies: from Pied-billed Grebe Apple Pie to Surf Scoter Scones to Sand Hill Crane Sugar Cookies. Order now

The recipe book was created by the Bird Boosters – a dedicated group of volunteers bonded by their love and admiration for International Bird Rescue. The boosters work collaboratively on special projects that help raise funds and highlight the great accomplishments of this 49-year-old organization.

May 18, 2020

Patient of the Week: Western Snowy Plover

Russ Curtis

Using a custom anesthesiology and oxygen rig, the Western Snowy Plover with a wing fracture had its wing pinned. Photo: Dr. Rebecca Duerr – International Bird Rescue

June 2, 2020 update:

The pin was removed in another surgical procedure on May 20th and our veterinarian reports that his bones have healed very nicely and his elbow joint is also in good shape. The plover does have some wing extension problems stemming from the injury to his patagium (the skin that stretches across the leading edge of the wing) and we are planning to work on improving his wing function through physical therapy over the next few weeks.

The Tiny Surgery Patient

On May 4, International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center was contacted by biologists about an injured adult male Western Snowy Plover they had captured at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Union City, CA. On arrival, radiographs revealed the bird had suffered a bad wing fracture, with its humerus bone in 3 pieces, plus it had a lacerated patagium (the web of skin that connects the shoulder to the wrist on the wing). Humerus fractures generally require surgical pinning if a wild bird is to have any hope of ever being able to fly again.

Despite not the best prognosis for this type of fracture healing well in such a tiny bird, not to mention their minuscule size (only 6 inches in length) providing a surgical challenge, our team decided to give fixing this bird a go. Due to the status of Western Snowy Plovers as Species of Special Concern within California, and Threatened status on the Endangered Species list, we had extra incentive to try to get this bird fixed up and back out into the wild.

Surgical repair was nerve-wracking but this feisty little bird did great through anesthesia and Dr. Rebecca Duerr, Bird Rescue’s staff veterinarian, was able to get the three pieces of bone correctly positioned on the pin after repairing the wing wound. Due to the size of the bone and delicate placement of the pin near the elbow, she decided to not attempt to place cross pins, which are often done in cases like this in larger birds to create an external fixator that allows the wing to be unrestrained while it heals. Instead, she opted to simply tape the wing to the body to provide the extra stability needed for the bone to start to heal.

We are happy to report that 18 days in, this tiny patient is doing well, being a good patient running around his enclosure and eating on his own. The pin will be removed next week, and physical therapy will begin in earnest. Since the bird has been healing so well so far, we are guardedly optimistic about his prognosis for being able to fly again.

About Snowy Plovers

Along the San Francisco Bay there are about 200 nesting Western Snowy Plovers, including about 125 at Eden Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. The Pacific coast breeding population extends from the state of Washington, to Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Male Snowy Plovers are good fathers. Though their offspring are able to feed themselves, the fathers watch over their chicks and will valiantly chase off predators or gather chicks underwing to shield them from weather or other risks.

These birds build their nests on sandy beaches, and their nesting areas are easily disturbed by hikers and beach goers. You can help protect this species by being extra cautious when you visit the beach or wetlands – give birds plenty of space and pay attention to signage that indicates nesting birds may be nearby. You can also help spread the word and educate others about Snowy Plovers – little birds like these might be hard to spot if you don’t know to look for them!

X-rays revealed the plover had suffered a bad wing fracture.

In surgery a pin was carefully placed to help the fractured wing to heal.

Western Snowy Plover in care at our Northern California wildlife center. Photo: International Bird Rescue

 

May 6, 2020

In The Time Of COVID-19: Alaska Oil Spill Response

Michelle Bellizzi

Aerial photo of the Valdez Marine Terminal, Alaska. You can see the oil sheen and boom deployment in Prince William Sound. Photo credit: Alyeska Pipeline

Sunday, April 12th was just like any other “normal” day adjusting to our new “normal” of “flattening the curve” during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the preceding weeks, states on the west coast of the United States had instituted #StayHome policies to slow the transmission of the deadly novel virus spreading across the globe since late 2019.

On that evening at 6:15 pm, International Bird Rescue received a call from our long-time client, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, alerting us to a small oil spill incident in Valdez, Alaska. Immediately, Alyeska activated Barbara Callahan, Bird Rescue’s Response Director, to provide expertise in this developing situation.

Callahan learned that the incident involved a small leak from a sump pump at the Valdez Marine Terminal – on land approximately 650 feet from the shore of Prince William Sound. The mere mention of a spill in this area, immediately brings up terrifying thoughts in the waters made famous by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster. And while the amount of this oiling was small, the oil seeped into the topsoil and leached into the harbor, where it created a large area of sheen. Worse, the area where the sheen was contained within boom sets was adjacent to a pier where one of the largest and most successful breeding populations of Black-legged Kittiwakes nest annually. There was also concern for the myriad of other fish, seabirds, waterfowl, and marine mammals that were making their annual return to the area for feeding and breeding. To add to the worry, the spill site was very close to a commercial salmon fishery where fry (small juvenile salmon) were scheduled for release within two weeks of this oil spill. There were significant concerns that the resulting sudden influx of prey species to the area would bring in additional animals foraging.

If this event had happened without the existence of a pandemic, the response tactics would be clear: Bird Rescue would deploy one or two field teams to Valdez to capture and stabilize any oil-affected birds. In addition, there would be a team assigned to activate the Alaska Wildlife Response Center (AWRC) in Anchorage. This turn-key standby center is always prepared to offer full rehabilitation of oiled wildlife.

Because of COVID-19 travel and quarantine restrictions, personnel from outside of Valdez were required to go through a 14-day quarantine within the state. In order to quickly initiate wildlife operations in Valdez, Alyeska activated several “Vessels of Opportunity” (“VOO’s”) who are kept on contract and who are pre-trained annually by Alyeska and Bird Rescue to be wildlife observers and capture crews. In addition, a small team of marine mammal experts were brought in from Anchorage and a local veterinarian were enlisted to perform wildlife stabilization.

Two Bird Rescue team members, Julie Skoglund and Liz Montenegro, were deployed to Anchorage to prepare the AWRC, and arrived on April 20th. As with every other part of this response, even this fairly direct deployment required an intensive contact history and a three-day quarantine without leaving their hotel rooms before the team was able to get to work at the AWRC. Once released from their quarantine, they quickly got to work and not only prepared for potential patients, but also performed a deep-clean on the center’s upstairs storage area, creating new storage space and cleaning out out-of-date or unnecessary equipment and supplies.

We are relieved to report that only three animals were oiled during this event, two were deceased prior to collection and one bird was euthanized. While we are never happy to see any oiled animals, this event had the potential to impact thousands more animals, and we breathed a sigh of relief as the spill area became smaller and smaller each day, and the oiled shoreline has been gradually restored. While spill cleanup operations will continue until the environment is restored, as of May 5, our Anchorage team has been demobilized and returned to their homes to self-quarantine for 14 days. Response Director Barbara Callahan and Bird Rescue will continue to be a part of the Spill Response management team providing our best advice and recommendations until cleanup operations are complete.

April 22, 2020

Webinar April 30: Blue Banded Pelican Project

Russ Curtis

Join us for an informative webinar on the Blue Banded Pelican Project by Dr. Rebecca Duerr, International Bird Rescue’s staff veterinarian. The online event will be held on Thursday, April 30, 2020 at 5:30 PM (PST). Please register here

In an effort to increase the number of reports of live sightings, Bird Rescue initiated the Blue-Banded Pelican Project in 2009. In addition to the metal federal band, each Brown Pelican receives a large, blue plastic leg band bearing easily readable white numbers. Since starting this program, thansks to citizen scientists, the rate of live Brown Pelican sighting reports has greatly increased.  The blue band IDs that we use feature a single letter followed by two numbers.

Read more

April 19, 2020

$49 for 49 more years!

Russ Curtis

It’s time to Raise the Rookery and help celebrate International Bird Rescue’s 49th year.

Baby bird season is already in full swing and you can help! For every $49 donation, we will honor you with an egret perched in our symbolic rookery tree. Your first name and last initial will be noted on your bird(s), or you may pick a different tribute name.

We could not do this work without YOU. You rescue birds right along with us and we thank you so very deeply. Your gift directly funds food, medication, and expert daily care for a bird in our wildlife centers.

Please Give 49. Your $49 donation includes a Bird Rescue membership for 2020.

Read more: History of International Bird Rescue