Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

October 15, 2020

Patient of the Week: Brandt’s Cormorant

Rebecca Duerr, DVM MPVM PhD
Radiograph from October 6 show the fishing hook lodged in Brandt’s Cormorant stomach.

A Brandt’s Cormorant came to us last week after ingesting a fish hook and having two others lodged in its mouth. The two in its mouth were removed by our colleagues at Native Animal Rescue in Santa Cruz, but the hook that had been swallowed was a potential serious problem that may have needed surgery; hence, the bird was transferred to us for further care.

A technique called “cotton-balling” helped the bird to regurgitate a fishing hook from its stomach.

On radiographs, the hook appeared to be located in the bird’s ventriculus (the second of a bird’s stomachs), but it was not obviously hooked through the stomach wall. Because the hook appeared to be free floating inside the stomach, and surgery is always a serious undertaking that we try to avoid whenever possible, we used a low-tech technique to encourage the bird to regurgitate the hook. This method lets us avoid invasive surgery on a sizable proportion of birds that ingest hooks. We call this treatment “cotton-balling”…although we don’t use actual cotton balls.

Cotton-balling is when we stuff thick wads of cotton cast padding inside several fish and force feed the fish to the bird. The cotton increases the amount of indigestible material in the bird’s stomach and becomes entangled with the hook inside of the bird’s stomach. If all goes as planned, the bird regurgitates the indigestible cotton, and the hook comes out with it!  We cotton-balled the cormorant on Wednesday, but no hook appeared. We cotton-balled again on Thursday, but still no hook regurgitated. However, on Friday, we were rewarded with the hook found on the bottom of the aviary! This method does not always work, but thankfully it did work this time. No surgery needed!

The bird remains in care receiving treatment for the wounds in its mouth, and is slowly gaining weight and recovering from pretty severe emaciation and anemia.

You can see the bird’s radiographs from October 6, and the hook after being regurgitated (and cleaned) on October 9. The bird has a metal federal band on its leg which is visible in the radiograph as a solid white shape around its leg. An added bonus: we learned the bird was banded at the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge as a chick two years ago!

Brandt’s Cormorant recovering in our outdoor flight aviary at the San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue
October 7, 2020

Photographers in Focus: Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

Russ Curtis

Photo of Western Grebes

Western Grebe parents with chick. All photos © Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

Photo of Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

This month we are spotlighting the gorgeous and evocative bird photography of Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson. Born in France and now living and working from her home in Irvine, California, Sandrine came to our attention a few years ago when she photographed and helped alert us to an American White Pelican with a severe bill injury. The bird’s rescue, care and ultimate release back to the wild, captured the public’s attention and garnered media coverage. The pelican was voted the bird patient of the year in 2018.

We asked Sandrine more about her discovery of this bird in need, and in her own words she told us this:

Photo of American White Pelican by Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

American White Pelican with injured bill.

“I often walk the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine which is five minutes away from my house and that day I spotted an American White Pelican walking on one of the trails. I immediately thought it was very odd because they always stay either in the water or on the islands pretty far from humans. I started taking pictures and noticed the bird had a badly deformed bill and a bloody wound at the neck. I first thought that the bird had been attacked by coyotes and I immediately contacted Trude Hurd at Audubon Sea and Sage but as the bird was flighted there was no way to capture it that day.

The Pelican was captured a few days later when it was weakened enough to get caught. I felt a special bond to this bird and was very grateful to the good people who helped along the way and of course to the great job International Bird Rescue did to rehabilitate this bird. A chain of solidarity really went in motion to save this pelican. A few weeks later I visited Bird Rescue’s [Los Angeles wildlife center] and witnessed and videotaped the bird’s last check-up before it was released, it was a real treat for me.”

Photo of Elegant Terns by Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

Elegant Terns courting on the beach in Spring.

Question: You have so many fine photos, what are some of your favorite species to capture photographically?

Answer: My two favorite species to photograph are Elegant Terns and Burrowing Owls. Elegant Terns are courting on the beach every spring and their antics are simply fantastic. They have great ‘’hair-dos’’ when in breeding plumage, and a beautiful courting ceremony that includes dancing, fish offerings, strolling on the beach etc. They seem to have minds of their own and I often laugh at their bold attitudes.

Photo of Burrowing Owls by Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

Burrowing Owls: mom and chick.

Talking about bold attitudes, Burrowing Owls are also fantastic. Some people will think it is odd to believe birds have facial expressions. But Burrowing Owls really do have many different expressions and are a delight to photograph. Unfortunately they have almost completely disappeared from Orange County partly because of loss of habitat.

Q: How did you get your start in photography?

Photo birds in the foggy morning by Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

Foggy morning at the marsh: Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Hooded Mergansers and Coots.

A: I started when I was in middle school with black and white photography when digital photography wasn’t even a thing! I learned the basics of photography and the work in a dark room. After many years of doing only family photos, I started again with a new camera (a Nikon D90 my husband gave me for my birthday) when I lived in Chile for two years and I wanted to capture the beauty of Chilean landscapes.

About 10 years ago when my son was in elementary school and he was really into nature, we started walking the neighborhood to spot animals. I had my camera with me and we would identify birds, lizards and insects once we were home. That’s how wildlife photography started for me. Since then I’ve been walking and photographing birds almost every single day and if I walk without my camera my eyes behave like a lens and I am always thinking about the shots I could take. Of course I almost always have my camera with me because you have to be ready, you never know what is going to pop just before your eyes.

Photo of Brown Pelican landing by Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

Brown Pelican makes a landing.

Q: What are some of the challenges you face in your bird and nature photography in general?

A: When you start wildlife photography you don’t necessarily know the ethics of the field and the most important thing to learn according to me is how to be an ethical photographer. Wildlife is facing unprecedented threats (climate change, loss of habitat, pesticides, pollution, you name it) and you certainly don’t want to add to that by your bad behavior in the field. I see so many photographers acting like the only thing that matters is the shot, the animal is secondary. They trample habitat, harass birds, disclose locations of nests, bait animals to get better shots etc. I have learned to be respectful, to keep my distances and even to avoid going to a spot where I know the birds are going to be stressed by my presence.

Photo of Brandt's Cormorant by Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

Male Brandt’s Cormorant bringing nesting material to his mate

Q: We know great photography is more than big name brand equipment. But that being said, what lens could you not live without and why?

A: My first lens for wildlife photography was a Nikon 300mm f/4 and I took tens of thousands of pictures with it. It is a great lens and I still love it. I now have a 200-500mm Nikon and once you have tasted the reach this kind of lens can offer there is no going back! Wildlife photography means being able to capture beautiful and unique moments without disturbing the animals so long lenses are a must. I am looking forward to seeing how mirrorless cameras and the lenses that go with them are developing. The weight of my current camera (a Nikon D810) and lens are sometimes a hassle.

Q: If you could give beginning nature photographers just one (or two) bit of advice, what would it be?

A: Walk alone would be my number one advice! Wildlife photography with a group is really difficult, you talk, you get distracted, you miss the shot. Know your environment, know where the birds are (walk again and again to figure out the good spots) and wait. Birds have territories for example and you can surely find a given species in the same given area.

My second advice is ‘’do no harm’’, keep your distances and be respectful. We have a responsibility as photographers. Wildlife photography is a widely popular hobby in the United States, we have to leave animals their space.

Q: What bird photo projects are you working on in the future?

Photo of Snowy Plover by Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

Snowy Plovers: Dad is taking care of three chicks – mom leaves just after the chicks hatch – and they are all under his wings for protection.

A: My new favorite subject is the Western Snowy Plover. This small shore bird nests on our beaches and is endangered – imagine nesting on Huntington Beach State Beach between April and July, the most popular beach of California! I am part of a group that surveys and tries to protect the Western Snowy Plovers of Orange County and there is so much to do. I am rewarded by photographing them and their chicks – they are the cutest you can find.

Q: Who are some of your favorite photographers?

A: The photography of Vincent Munier, a French wildlife photographer always blows my mind. He is able to capture amazing imagery of the arctic and the wildlife it withstands.

I am very impressed by the work of Britta Jaschinski a German photographer involved in documenting the exploitation of wildlife in the name of entertainment, greed or superstition. Her photography is very powerful and hopefully will help stop wildlife trade. Never has the saying ‘’a picture is worth 1000 words’’ been truer when you watch Britta’s photography.

I believe as photographers we have a huge voice for animals and it would be a shame to waste it on ‘’cute’’ shots only. We have something to say about endangered species, loss of habitat and animal exploitation. I am an active member of my local Audubon Sea and Sage chapter and want to get more and more involved in protection and conservation issues.

Q: How has working in nature enhanced your life?

A: Enhanced? It has literally changed my life ! Most of my life revolves around nature, conservation, birds and photography. Being in nature is thrilling, like a boost of life I take each and every day. I am amazed by what I witness, the animals’ behaviors, the return of migratory birds, the rare bird making a few days stop in its long voyage to its breeding ground, the sunsets and the sunrises over the ocean or the mountains, everything excites me, I feel there is always something more to see, to understand and to share.

Sandrine’s web portfolios can be found here:

Facebook page:

Website: www.scherson.com

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sandrine-biziaux/

October 2, 2020

Pelican with Repaired Pouch Tear Returns to the Wild

Russ Curtis

Watch then video of treatment and release

After a month in care that included a 4-hour procedure to repair its torn pouch, a healed Brown Pelican was released this week and is back at home in the wild. The adult female pelican was banded with Y54, a special blue-band that helps International Bird Rescue track these majestic seabirds.

In late August the pelican was rescued in Ventura, CA in dismal condition with a massive pouch tear. Thanks to the efforts of rescuers and the team at Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network (SBWCN), the pelican was rescued, stabilized, and transported to Bird Rescue where it underwent a life-saving surgery. Without human intervention, this beautiful seabird would surely have starved.

During the intense 4-hour procedure, led by our Veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, with assistance by Dr. Avery Berkowitz from SBWCN, the team was successful in suturing the pouch and rebuilding the left side, back of the bird’s mouth. The patient was soon awake, eating, and ready to continue her recovery at our Los Angeles wildlife center.

Read the original story here about the patient’s case.

September 28, 2020

Brown Pelican’s Enormous Pouch Laceration Repaired

Dr. Rebecca Duerr
Veterinarians Dr. Rebecca Duerr and Dr. Avery Berkowitz operate on Brown Pelican with slashed pouch. Photo: International Bird Rescue

Remember Pink the Pelican back several years ago and its horrible pouch laceration? Another Brown Pelican patient has suffered an even worse sliced pouch.

On August 30, 2020, a mature adult female Brown Pelican was found near the Ventura harbor in Southern California with an enormous pouch laceration – including both sides of her pouch all the way back onto her neck on the left side. The pelican’s back of her mouth was completely ripped open and the bird was doomed to die of starvation. Initially it was feared that her pouch had been completely cut off; luckily that was not the case! 

Figuring out what part goes where before temporary repairs of the Brown Pelican’s slashed pouch. Photo: Courtesy of Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network

Thanks to the kind efforts of rescuers,  the bird was brought to Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network’s wildlife center for emergency care, where she was stabilized with IV fluids and pain medications, and her pouch was temporarily tacked in place by their veterinarian, Dr. Avery Berkowitz. 

Temporary repairs allow gravity to help with blood drainage from the severed tissue and also gives the bird a chance to eat. Although very hungry, she had trouble positioning fish in her mouth and needed help swallowing. Arrangements were made to transfer the bird to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center in San Pedro, CA for surgery.

Photo Brown Pelican pouch surgery at International Bird Rescue
View looking into the sutured pelican’s mouth. The massive injury also required Dr. Duerr to rebuild the left side back of the bird’s mouth. Photo: International Bird Rescue

Caring for California’s wildlife is a team effort. Bird Rescue’s staff veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, DVM, MPVM, PhD invited Dr. Avery Berkowitz, Director of Animal Care and Wildlife Veterinarian at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, to come help with the surgery, and thus an inter-organizational surgery day was arranged for September 4th. The veterinarians found small areas of pouch that were devitalized and required removal, but the severed pouch was largely healthy and able to be repaired without substantial loss of the pouch. Normally, Dr. Duerr likes to keep pelican anesthesias to under three hours for various reasons. In this case, the much-worse left side of the pouch was finished being sutured at the two hour mark while the bird was still doing very well under anesthesia, so the two vets opted to go for it and do the right side as well. All-in-all, the massive repair job clocked in at right around four hours total.

We are happy to report this beautiful bird has been doing very well healing, and her sutures were removed 12 days after the surgery. The sutured wound has healed very well, and is getting more healing before returning to the wild to plunge dive in the ocean for dinner. 

This bird is the 4th case of this type of extreme pouch injury our Los Angeles center has received in the past two years: two cases were from Ventura and two from Marina del Rey. Although we have received pelicans with large pouch lacerations for decades, these four cases have been different because the lacerations have continued farther back on the neck as a linear cut, which completely wrecks the back of the bird’s mouth – making the skin of the neck pull away too. Three of these four birds were able to be repaired and released, but the 4th bird unfortunately died of a fungal infection. 

The nature of the wounds makes us fear that someone with a sharp weapon is deliberately hurting these birds. Pouch injuries caused by fishing gear or other misadventures in a species that lives near human activities are both unfortunate and understandable; deliberate harming of our precious wildlife is neither.

Injuring Brown Pelicans is illegal. If you see people hurting pelicans or other wild animals, please report to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s CALTIP hotline at 1-888-334-CalTIP (888-334-2258). You can view the state’s anti-poaching website at https://wildlife.ca.gov/Enforcement/CalTIP where there are instructions for anonymous reporting by text as well. 

Following surgery, the Brown Pelican recuperates in the large flight aviary at the Los Angeles Wildlife Center. Photo: Angie Trumbo – International Bird Rescue
September 23, 2020

Heroic Efforts Couldn’t Save Wayward Nazca Booby

This injured and weak Nazca Booby landed in Long Beach, CA – far from its usual range. Photo by Angie Trumbo – International Bird Rescue

An unusual tropical patient came into care in September at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center after being found stranded at the Port of Long Beach. The injured seabird, called a Nazca Booby, was far out of its normal range — some 3,000 miles from its home in the Galapagos Islands — and even more unusual it had a metal leg band that indicated that it had previously been in human hands. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts the bird has died.

On admission, the Nazca Booby was emaciated and quite weak. X-rays showed it had a poorly-healed old wing fracture of the humerus – very close to the shoulder.

We had hoped our staff veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, DVM MPVM PhD, might be able to pin the damaged wing area, but the bone was already set in the wrong position. While we were unsure whether the bird was going to be able to fly, our team provided expert care and the booby rallied for more than a week. Into the second week, she took a turn for the worse and died suddenly, despite our best efforts.

Our veterinarian conducted a necropsy to see if we could learn more from this bird. The only significant finding beyond the injuries already seen was kidney problems. It seems that this was a fairly young bird who flew way off track then showed up starving, perhaps due to its wing injury. Her remains will be added to the avian collection at Los Angeles Natural History Museum to propel understanding of the species.

The leg band that she arrived with was of particular interest. We learned that this individual Nazca Booby was part of a long term study of the species that biologists from Wake Forest University Biology Department’s Avian Ecology Group have been conducting in the Galapagos Islands since 1984. According to the group’s leader, Professor of Biology David J. Anderson, PhD, the three-year-old female was banded as a nestling in the 2017-18 breeding season.

Adult Nazca Boobies, five years and older, usually reside in a breeding colony at Punta Cevallos on Isla Espanola, said Anderson. The younger birds – from eight months to five years – wander elsewhere and will generally be seen along the coasts of Nicaraugua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico.

“Reports like yours are valuable for us to know where they spend these years,” said Anderson. “Long Beach [California, USA] is the farthest [sighting] from the colony that has ever been reported!” 

Banded birds, whether in hand or sighted in the field, are a primary mechanism for science to learn about bird migration and dispersal patterns. Bird Rescue bands nearly all of its patients released back to the wild with a metal federal band. In addition, all Brown Pelican patients released back to the wild since 2009 have a unique field readable blue band attached to its opposite leg.

The Nazca Booby (Sula granti) is the largest of the three boobies found in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. They are easily identified by their bright white plumage, black-tipped feathers, and orange beak.

Bird Rescue is honored to have had the chance to help this special booby. We believe Every Bird Matters whether or not they get released. In this instance this bird contributed to science and our further understanding of this species.

September 19, 2020

International Bird Rescue Welcomes Cindy Margulis as Director of Philanthropy

JD Bergeron

Our new Director of Philanthropy Cindy Margulis has been a longtime friend, ally, and supporter of Bird Rescue. She first encountered Bird Rescue in emergency response mode during the 2007 Cosco Busan Oil Spill in San Francisco Bay. She credits the calm, focus and competence of the team in that high-pressure situation as making an indelible impression on her. Cindy says she resolved, then and there, to do whatever she could to help this team that saves birds’ lives.

In her own words: “My fascination with birds deepened when, as a docent at the Oakland Zoo, I developed a close relationship with a rescued parrot while producing live animal shows for zoo visitors every Sunday. That Amazon Parrot opened my mind to the world of social birds. Grabbing my camera and heading out to local Bay shorelines, I focused on learning all about the swirling mixed flocks of shorebirds and the fabulous array of waterbirds, whose beauty when foraging, preening, roosting, or flying mesmerized me. I fell in love.”

Cindy has lived in the SF Bay region for more than 20 years and is known for her passion for inspiring people to care for wildlife–especially the amazing species of birds that grace our watersheds. In her spare time, Cindy has advocated for and monitored local birds. She served as a docent and Trustee of the Oakland Zoo, and as a docent for the East Bay Regional Park District. For years, she assisted USFWS in monitoring a colony of endangered California Least Terns. And she monitored a winter roosting population of Snowy Plovers and a breeding colony of Great and Snowy Egrets for SF Bay Bird Observatory.

Before joining Bird Rescue’s staff, Cindy served for five years as Executive Director for Golden Gate Audubon. While there, she arranged a collaboration with International Bird Rescue and the Oakland Zoo that saved the lives of hundreds of vulnerable herons and egrets stranded on downtown streets in Oakland, CA, over several seasons. Cindy also envisioned and launched the popular Osprey public outreach initiative and yearlong centennial festivities that inspired thousands of people to appreciate and protect birds. Just last summer, Oakland Magazine ran a feature article about her: http://www.oaklandmagazine.com/September-2019/Cindy-Margulis-Is-an-Avian-Advocate/

We are pleased to welcome Cindy aboard as Director of Philanthropy. She has devoted most of her professional career to creating strong and valuable relationships, including helping to establish and manage win-win relationships with alliance partners. Now, as a member of Bird Rescue’s leadership team, Cindy will strengthen the network of essential donor and alliance relationships that empower Bird Rescue’s life-saving work.

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.

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:


  • 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


  • 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.


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


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