Last week, our Los Angeles wildlife center received a Brown Booby — via Alaska Airlines. Let us explain …
Over the past year or so, we’ve seen several cases of Blue-footed and Brown Boobies traveling far beyond their usual tropical and subtropical ranges. An “invasion” of Blue-footed Boobies occurred in Southern California last fall, while over the holidays last year, a Brown Booby found beached in Northern California was transferred to our San Francisco Bay center from our friends at WildCare in Marin County.
This latest Brown Booby came to us from Alaska, nearly 3,000 miles from the species’ northern range in the Gulf of California.
According to SitkaNature.org, the animal was found on a fishing boat near Kruzof Island, and was transported to the Alaska Raptor Center. There, wildlife rehabilitators assessed the animal and found the booby had a wound on its back in addition to being cold and thin.
We don’t know why this bird flew so far north, though atypical weather patterns have certainly been documented in recent months. SitkaNature.org points to unusual warming patterns in several areas of the North Pacific, for example.
Two challenges were evident here: One, to get the bird healthy again, and two, to get it as close to a Brown Booby’s normal range as possible. In the case of the Northern California booby we treated last year, the patient was transported down to our Los Angeles center, much closer to this plunge-feeding bird’s range.
With the help of Alaska Airlines, our patient of the week was flown in an animal crate south to LAX, where our team picked it up and brought it to International Bird Rescue’s LA center, located about 20 miles away.
Center Manager Kelly Berry writes:
After loading her in the car, I peaked into the crate to find her actively preening. Once she arrived at the center, she received a full exam and began self-feeding right away.
We did find she is favoring her right leg. [X-rays] revealed nothing significant, so we are giving her warm water pool therapy to see if it helps her.
We’ll keep you posted on this remarkable patient! Many thanks to Alaska Airlines and the Alaska Raptor Center.
A legend in the world of saving animals harmed by oil spills, Jay was always eager to share his decades of field experience with the next generation of wildlife rescuers.
So perhaps it’s fitting that the finest oiled marine animal rehabilitation facility in South America has just been dedicated in his memory.
On Tuesday, Aiuká, a Brazilian wildlife emergency response team founded by veterinarians Valeria Ruoppolo, Rodolfo Silva and Claudia Nascimento, celebrated the grand opening of their new center in Praia Grande, located on the Atlantic coast about an hour south of São Paulo. It’s a stunning facility, perhaps deserving of the nickname “palácio dos pinguins” (palace of the penguins).
During the opening event, Aiuká’s founding partners, along with International Bird Rescue marketing and communications director Andrew Harmon, unveiled a silver plaque dedicating the center to Jay and his legacy. (You can view a slideshow of photos from the new center and the opening event below.)
Ruoppolo and Silva first met Jay and our global response team at a wildlife conference in 2000. Since then, Aiuká has been part of the International Bird Rescue Response Team through IFAW and worked with us all over the world, from the 2000 Treasure Spill in South Africa to the 2008 Patagonia Spill in Argentina. Ruoppolo, Silva and their staff have became dear friends and wonderful members of International Bird Rescue’s extended family.
Aiuká’s nearly 7,000-square-foot facility can care for 300 oiled birds, two marine mammals and up to 30 sea turtles. The main floor has stations for every element of an oiled animal’s care, from intake to washing, drying and outdoor rehabilitation. The outside pools even have narrow, angular ramps leading up to water’s edge for Aiuká’s most common patient, the Magellanic Penguin (see above).
This species, which migrates from winter breeding grounds in Patagonia to feed in Uruguay and southern Brazil, are frequently affected by small oil spills (mostly of unknown origin) along the coast.
Aiuká is rapidly expanding to serve the response needs of Brazil and neighboring countries. We couldn’t be prouder, and we are honored to be their partner in Tier 3 response for severe spill emergencies. Our organizations are also co-hosts for the 12th Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference in Anchorage, Alaska this coming May.
An unexpected highlight of Aiuka’s grand opening celebration — two unexpected highlights, to be exact — were these baby wrens, nestled in a small hole above the wash station, and almost ready to fly.
With the rise of global industrialization and a rapidly expanding consumer culture, marine plastic pollution is fast becoming an existential threat to seabirds. Birds that live and feed on the open sea, such as albatrosses and fulmars (above), often mistake floating plastic for prey.
Over time, this ingestion can kill the animal, and in many cases, adult birds will regurgitate plastic when feeding their young. The upcoming documentary Midway (see below) highlights this problem with stark and heartbreaking footage.
Researchers seeking to better understand the extent of problem have now found that by measuring levels of certain chemical compounds in preening oil, they are able to estimate the level of ingestion in a bird. Previous methods of determining plastic volume in a live bird’s digestive tract have been more invasive, while analyzing the stomach contents of a dead bird depends on a biased sample set (bird carcasses that have washed up on shore, for example).
Preening oil is produced by the uropygial gland at the base of a bird’s tail, and is vital to maintaining waterproofed feathers. Petroleum destroys such waterproofing, which impedes a bird’s ability to regulate body temperature. Scientists at CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship in Australia report that by collecting oil form the gland with a swab, they can measure levels of phthalates — chemical compounds that make plastic more durable and flexible. The amount of phthalates in preening oil correlated with the amount of plastic swallowed by the animals studied.
The research is published in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution.
This past weekend, International Bird Rescue veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr and operations manager Julie Skoglund attended the 20th annual California Council for Wildlife Rehabilitators symposium. They co-taught a lecture and workshop for rehabilitators on avian physical therapy with Janelle Freshman, a physical therapist and International Bird Rescue volunteer at our Los Angeles center.
The goal of these presentations was to help rehabilitators return their patients to full athletic functioning after recovery from injury or illness, and to increase positive outcomes from often-debilitating musculoskeletal problems.
Dr. Duerr also presented a lecture on nutrition, critical care and rehabilitation, where she explained nutrition concepts related to the treatment of severely emaciated animals, as wild animals very commonly enter care in extremely poor nutritional condition. As a result, wildlife rehabilitators often struggle to nurse these difficult cases back to health.
Symposiums such as this provide a great opportunity for our staff to share knowledge, learn new things, and visit with old friends and new colleagues!
Conference photo via Wildlife Rescue Center of Napa County
Good news! International Bird Rescue is thrilled to continue our partnership with the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation (HCBF) to give local students an unforgettable internship experience at our Los Angeles center!
This week, we received our second grant through HCBF’s highly competitive Community Benefit Grant program, designed to mitigate the impact of Port of Los Angeles and Port-related operations in Wilmington and San Pedro. Our Harbor Community Academic Internship Program is a hands-on opportunity to work with wildlife, as intern almuna Leah can tell you in the video above!
Individuals interested in this program must be 16 years of age or older, have community ties to the Los Angeles area and demonstrate an educational and/or career interest in fields such as wildlife biology, conservation, nonprofit work, oil spill response, ornithology and photography/film.
Click here to apply and to read more information on this wonderful internship opportunity. Thanks, HCBF!
Harbor Community Benefit Foundation (HCBF) is an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization formed in 2011. Its mission is to assess, protect, and improve the health, quality of life, aesthetics, and physical environment of the harbor communities of San Pedro and Wilmington, California, which have been impacted by the Port of Los Angeles. HCBF accomplishes this through grantmaking, independent research, and community events.
Earlier this week, we blogged about this Great Blue Heron, brought to our San Francisco Bay center last weekend with gunshot wounds a wing fracture. This animal was rescued in Hollister, CA by our friends at Wildlife Emergency Services, which secured an initial $5,050 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for this crime.
We’re pleased to report that the Animal Legal Defense Fund has now added an additional $1,000 to the reward, along with $200 from an ALDF supporter. The reward now stands at $6,250.
Great Blue Herons are federally protected birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) currently is seeking information on this federal crime, which is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months. Anonymous tipsters can call the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s CalTip line at 888-334-2258 or the USFWS at 650-876-9078.
Wildlife Emergency Services has created a bilingual flyer for this reward, shown below.
With the five-year anniversary of the Gulf Oil Spill approaching, the largest accidental marine spill in history may have killed well over a half-million birds, according to a new study published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.
Using statistical models based on recovered bird carcasses and seabird density data in the Gulf of Mexico, a team of researchers has estimated that between 600,000 to 800,000 birds died in the near-term aftermath of the spill. Researchers reported that the full range of avian fatalities could be as low as 300,000 and as high as 2 million.
The four species most affected were the Laughing Gull, which suffered nearly a one-third population decline in the Gulf region, followed by the Royal Tern, Northern Gannet and Brown Pelican. Audubon Christmas Bird Count numbers of Laughing Gull populations from 2010 to 2013 appear to track the researchers’ conclusions.
Federal officials had removed the Brown Pelican from the Endangered Species List just months prior to the disaster; these birds suffered double-digit declines in Gulf of Mexico coastal habitat, according to the study.
BP, the multinational petroleum company operating the offshore rig that exploded in April 2010, has criticized the researchers’ methodology as well as funding for the paper by plaintiff’s attorneys who are pursuing litigation against the oil-and-gas giant (read BP’s public statement here).
International Bird Rescue co-managed oiled wildlife rescue efforts in four states during the Gulf Spill along with our partners at Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research.
Laughing Gull photo by Rachid H/Creative Commons; Royal Tern photo by Alan Vernon/Creative Commons; Northern Gannet photo by Xavier Ceccaldi/Creative Commons; Brown Pelican photo by Cheryl Reynolds.
Though this species has been protected by federal law for nearly a century, our wildlife teams regularly care for herons injured by human causes — some incidental, others deliberate. Today, International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center is caring for herons affected by both.
The Great Blue Heron you see above was rescued by our friends at Wildlife Emergency Services after it was found crouched in the backyard of a Hollister, CA home. Caregivers at SPCA for Monterey County Wildlife Center took X-rays of the heron and found that it had been shot. The bird has since been transferred to us, and is recovering from a fractured wing in addition to the gunshot wounds.
Wildlife Emergency Services has secured a reward of $5,050 in this case; anonymous tipsters with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible can call the California Department of Fish and Wildlife CalTip line at 888-334-2258 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 650-876-9078.
Great Blue Herons are known to sometimes hunt for fish in backyard ponds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers a simple solution for homeowners and their koi fish: Put a length of drain pipe in the pond for the fish to hide from wading birds seeking a quick meal.
Our second Great Blue Heron (right) at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center has a more common affliction: injuries due to fishing line entanglement. Both of these birds are being housed in outdoor heron aviaries with privacy screening to limit visual contact (Great Blues can be high-stress birds in captivity).
Your support as a member is what makes this work possible. Thank you very much!
A common sight in our Los Angeles wildlife clinic: Here is the latest Brown Pelican to come to us with a fishing gear injury, this one affecting the bird’s left leg and foot.
Fishing gear in the environment is one of several issues addressed in Judy Irving’s new documentary Pelican Dreams, now in theaters. We heartily recommend this film for an intimate look at pelicans and the threats they face.
Everyone here at International Bird Rescue is thrilled that Pelican Dreams, a documentary by Judy Irving six years in the making, takes flight this week in theaters throughout the San Francisco Bay Area — and across the country soon afterwards! Irving has dedicated the film in memory of International Bird Rescue director Jay Holcomb, who died in June at age 63.
This full-length feature follows California Brown Pelicans from their nesting colonies in the Channel Islands and Baja California to feeding grounds along the Pacific coast. As with The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, Irving brings a unique style to wildlife documentary filmmaking, one that’s highly intimate, even poetic.
Central to the narrative, Irving zooms in on two injured birds cared for by wildlife rehabilitators. International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center plays a leading role in the film: Viewers will get an intriguing glimpse of our pelican aviary, which can accommodate over 100 pelicans in need of expert care.
International Bird Rescue is a national leader in saving pelicans injured by human-caused threats. Every year, our veterinary and rehabilitation team cares for hundreds of these remarkable birds. We also work with partner organizations on the regional and national level to advocate for comprehensive monitoring of Brown Pelicans, which were removed from the Endangered Species List five years ago but continue to face threats to survival. Click here for a Los Angeles Times op-ed on this issue by International Bird Rescue’s Andrew Harmon.
A growing number of Pelican Dreams fans have asked us how they can help protect and preserve pelicans. We can think of five ways you can make a difference:
Become a member of International Bird Rescue. We depend on the kindness and generosity of wildlife lovers like you to fulfill our mission to save seabirds and other aquatic species from human-caused problems, such as oil spills, plastic pollution, even animal cruelty.
Starting at $35, membership connects you with fellow pelican aficionados through our e-newsletters. You’ll also receive invites to members-only bird releases and International Bird Rescue events in 2015. Members who contribute $100 or more are eligible for the Puffins and Whale Tails miniprint by International Bird Rescue “artist in residence” David Scheirer. Click here to get started.
Want to make a bigger impact? Become a Pelican Partner and you’ll be invited on a private release of a Brown Pelican cared for at an International Bird Rescue center in California.
Pick up discarded fishing gear and ocean trash. Fishing gear (think monofilament line, fish hooks and lures) is one of the most common threats to pelicans along our coasts. A large percentage of pelicans admitted to our wildlife centers have fishing gear-related injuries on their throat pouches, legs, wings and feet. Removing this debris from the environment has a direct impact on the health and well-being of pelicans and other seabirds.
Volunteer. Whether it’s with International Bird Rescue or a partner wildlife group, volunteering is a fantastic way to give back to wildlife in your community and beyond. International Bird Rescue’s volunteer program is a unique, hands-on opportunity to work with animals. We also have volunteer needs in our administrative, development and operations departments. All volunteer duties are vital to the “Every Bird Matters” mission.
Report sightings of Blue-Banded Pelicans along the Pacific Coast. To better track pelicans post-release, we place large, plastic blue bands with letter/number identification (“V13,” for instance). Birders all along the West Coast have reported hundreds of sightings. If you see a Blue-Banded pelican, please click here to report your sighting — and take a photo of the bird if you can!
Keep pelicans wild. Like many birds, pelicans are susceptible to habituation. Birds that associate humans with food are more likely to dumpster-dive for scraps, beg on fishing piers, become entangled in fishing line, contaminate themselves with fish oil at fish-cleaning stations, and otherwise become too comfortable with the urban environment, where they are bound to run into problems. Keeping a respectable distance from these wonderful birds and refraining from feeding them is a great way to help keep them wild.
We also invite you to visit Pelican Media and discover more of Irving’s wonderful work. And tell a friend about Pelican Dreams!
Pelicans on Duty by Bill Gracey/Flickr; above: American White Pelican by Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue
Thanks so much to our friends at Dowitcher Designs in Santa Barbara, CA for sponsoring the care of this injured Long-billed Dowitcher! The bird has healed and will be up for release soon! www.dowitcherdesigns.com
Own a business? Interested in sponsoring a wild bird patient? Email us and let’s get started!
This eccentric new patient is a Common Poorwill, a species of nightjar and one of the few birds in the world known to undergo a hibernation-like state called torpor. They are nocturnal and forage through the night sky for moths and other insects.
This patient was recently transported to our San Francisco Bay center by Vallejo Animal Control, having been found on nearby Mare Island.
There are no visible injuries, but the bird is emaciated and was hypothermic upon intake. (Click on the player to the right to hear this bird.)
We gave this patient plenty of supportive care before transferring the poorwill to our friends and wildlife partners at Lindsay Wildlife Museum. Thanks, Lindsay!