Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

October 15, 2017

Atlas Fire Hits Close to Home for Bird Rescue’s SF Bay-Delta Wildlife Center

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The Atlas fire in California is has been hitting close to home for the past week at Bird Rescue. Our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center, which is also our headquarters, is located in Fairfield, California, not far from the path of the fires.

We kept our birds-in-care at the facility as long as we could before the poor air quality and the looming possibility of evacuation rose beyond our acceptable threshold. For the well-being of our birds, we made the decision on Wednesday evening to release those that were healthy enough to go, and to transfer the remaining patients to partner centers outside the fire zone.

Preparing aquatic birds to be transferred to any outside facility (especially those not specialized in aquatic care) takes a tremendous amount of energy, and we are grateful that our team of employees and volunteers stepped up to the challenge. From exit examinations to preparing the bird’s medications and food, paperwork, and arranging transport, the process is extremely time-consuming and tedious.

Huge thanks to partner centers WildCare (San Rafael), Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA (San Mateo), The SPCA for Monterey County (Monterey), and Pacific Wildlife Care (San Luis Obispo) for receiving these patients. We hope that they are all adjusting nicely to their new respective centers.

So long as it is still safe to do so, our center will remain open as a service to the public for wildlife emergencies. However, we will not be receiving new patients until the situation improves. Our hearts go out to our employees, volunteers, and supporters who have already been impacted. We join in unity with the communities affected, our fellow emergency response professionals, and all the many of you who have stepped up to help out, with shelter, with donations, and with your support.

In our 46-year history, we have never needed to evacuate all of the birds from our facility. We have been through floods, handled numerous oil spill emergencies, felt earthquakes, endured other extreme weather, and yet this evacuation is unique for our SF Bay-Delta wildlife center. Our flight aviary may be motionless at the moment, but we are thankful we can see the uncharred hill behind us through the smoke.

While we are not currently accepting new patients at our SF center, we are happy to report that business, as usual, will go on at our Los Angeles wildlife center. We are glad to be able to continue to serve the Los Angeles area and are eagerly awaiting the ability to do so again at our SF Bay-Delta wildlife center.

To keep updated on the most current situation at Bird Rescue, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thank you again for all of your support, which is needed now more than ever!

Sincerely and with gratitude,
The International Bird Rescue Team

 

September 27, 2017

Volunteer Spotlight: Susan “Mac” McCarthy

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Editor’s note: The work we do at Bird Rescue wouldn’t be possible without our amazing team of staff and volunteers! Read below to meet one of our stellar team members.

Susan McCarthy – Volunteer Since 1971

A writer and a volunteer, Susan (or Mac as we’ll call her) has been on the front lines with Bird Rescue since 1971, getting her start at the Standard Oil spill incident that prompted the very formation of our organization! From oil spills to her work as a writer, Mac’s commitment to animal welfare has been an inspiration to us over the years.

A long-time Bay Area resident, Mac has always had a soft spot for avian wildlife. Growing up in a home that valued the welfare of all animals (including a mother who used to drive her to our center so she could volunteer!) it’s no wonder that Mac has dedicated her life to studying and writing about animal behavior.

As a professional writer, Mac’s work can be seen in her non-fiction books When Elephants Weep (which she co-authored with Jeff Masson) and Becoming a Tiger. In addition to her work in animal behavior, Mac also runs a blog with her colleague Marjorie Ingall, Sorry Watch, which analyzes apologies, both public and private.

We are so grateful that Mac has chosen to spend her time helping our efforts over the years, and are delighted to get to spend time with such an interesting and dedicated woman!

Read Mac’s account of bird rescue at the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill: http://www.outsidelands.org/1971_oil_spill.php

September 17, 2017

Patient of the Week: White-tailed Kite

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Rare patient: A White-tailed Kite in care at our SF Bay-Delta Center.

Because of our specialization with water birds, it’s not often that we get to work with or talk about non-aquatic birds, such as this gorgeous, juvenile White-tailed Kite. You may remember three oiled Prairie Falcon chicks that we featured last summer. While we specialize in aquatic bird species, we work with any species that is in need to the best of our abilities.

This kite came to our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center in need of food, water, and warmth after being found crouching near a chicken coop at a private residence in Vallejo, California. The home owner brought the bird to our clinic and we quickly worked to stabilize it, providing the needed warmth and fluids and force-feeding it since it was not ready to feed on its own. We cared for the bird for a couple of days until it was stabilized, and then transferred it to our colleagues at Lindsay Wildlife Museum where it could receive specialized long-term care from their raptor specialists.

White-tailed Kites are medium-sized raptors that can be found in open grasslands and savannas. A good way to spot them in the wild is their characteristic hunting style of hovering over the ground in search of small mammals! They have a bright white tail, grey back and wings, and a white face. Click the photo at top to see footage of a kite hunting and feasting.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, it is unknown whether these soaring beauties are nomadic, migratory, or both. They can be found roosting communally in the off-season.

Though White-tailed Kites are not currently threatened, all raptor species face the challenge of contamination from our environment. Sitting at the top of the food chain, raptors are heavily affected by the toxins that get into their diets. When their prey (small mammals, birds, etc.) are exposed to toxins, these toxins can get more concentrated in the bird of prey when they ingest the animal.

While we love our water birds at Bird Rescue, we’re always happy to celebrate all birds, and this White-tailed Kite is a true beauty. For more information on White-tailed Kites, go here.

Photos by Senior Rehabilitation Technician Jennifer Linander

September 11, 2017

Patient of the Week: Virginia Rail

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You may have heard of a dance called the Virginia Reel, but have you ever hard of a bird called a Virginia Rail?

Rails are a diverse family of mostly aquatic birds, not unlike swamp chickens. Most members of this group of birds are very adept at hiding and prefer to inhabit dense vegetation. They are more often heard than seen. Many of this family have distinct calls that are surprisingly loud in relation to their small bodies.

We are currently treating Virginia Rail patients at both our Northern and Southern California wildlife centers. Virginia Rails are very small, with a distinctive orange beak. They are very delicate and can fall victim to house cats, car collisions, and many other human-caused hazards. Fortunately, we successfully released one just last week from our Los Angeles wildlife center.

To hear the voice of the Virgina Rail, click the photo to the right. You can also learn more about Virginia Rails at Cornell Lab of Ornithology: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Virginia_Rail/id

Photos by volunteer Katrina Plummer

 

September 8, 2017

The Release Files: Brown Pelican Recovers From Horrendous Pouch Injury

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Brown Pelican out in the aviary after healing from massive pouch and bill trauma. Photo by Katrina Plummer

Remember this Brown Pelican with the monstrous pouch injury we posted earlier this summer? We have good news: The bird recovered and was released after major surgery and weeks of specialized care.

The original injury to this young Brown Pelican mid-July, 2017.

On July 16 2017, a kind-hearted person in Huntington Beach, CA rescued a young Brown Pelican with a horrendous wound. The poor bird’s pouch was completely ripped open, rendering him unable to eat. They brought the starving bird to Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach where he was treated for a few days before being transferred to our Los Angeles Wildlife Center in San Pedro, CA.

We found that the entire left side of the bird’s pouch was shredded and the loose dangling flaps of tissue were bruised and swollen from the rude and painful interruption to their blood supply. The bird also was found to have two separate problems with its bill—the upper bill was partially fractured longitudinally half way along its length while the left mandible was completely fractured back by the jaw joint. Our staff splinted the fractures and stapled the tissue in place temporarily so the bird could eat while getting stronger before what would be a very long surgery.

A few days later, our vet decided the splint was sufficient for the upper bill break but the mandible fracture needed to be pinned. Pelicans have unusual bone texture where the bones have huge interior air spaces and extremely thin but strong outer walls. The outer bone wall is so thin that the threaded orthopedic screws usually used to pin bird bones don’t work. So our vet used something rather akin to an abstract work of art called a “spider fixator” to provide stability. Next, she tackled the long process of suturing the pouch back together. Pelican pouch has very fine stripes that run parallel to the jaw that can tell us how ripped pieces are supposed to fit together. Once all the stripes of the shreds were lined up, it became clear that there were really three long straight parallel cuts with the tissue between the cuts ripped free. This suggests the injury may have been caused by a boat propeller.

After the feisty bird had all of his sutures and pins removed, the pelican spent a few weeks in our large flight aviary getting some exercise before we set him free! He is now sporting big blue band “N75,” so keep your eyes out for him flying the coast.

Every Pelican matters and we so appreciate the public’s support of our efforts.

View inside Brown Pelican’s pouch after removal of pouch repair sutures, with major parts labeled! Check out the new blood vessels he grew to supply the ripped area.

Out in the aviary Aug 24, 2017, healing like a champ.

 

September 2, 2017

Patient of the Week: American White Pelican

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Pelicans and stray fishing tackle sure don’t mix. This American White Pelican came into our care with nasty fishing line entanglement injuries. The bird was transferred to us from our friends at WildCare in July with a huge abscess on one wing (plus maggots, ewww, now thankfully gone) and some serious damage to a leg that we are treating.

We are happy to report that after several surgeries for wound treatment and a toe amputation the bird is healing like a champ. Between extra helpings of fish and mandatory hydrotherapy for his leg, the White Peli is flying from perch to perch in the 100-foot aviary at our San Francisco Bay-Delta Center in Fairfield. We have hopes he will be released back to the wild soon!

White Pelicans have 9-foot wingspans and are some of the largest birds in North America. They are larger than Brown Pelicans and feed differently than their cousins, preferring not to dive into water. Instead, they forage cooperatively in inland bodies of water by herding fish toward shallower water together, then scooping them up with their huge bills. Learn more at Audubon: http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/american-white-pelican

Photos by staffers Cheryl Reynolds and Rebecca Duerr

August 26, 2017

Rehabilitated Brown Pelican ‘E17’ Spotted in Mexico with Chicks

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We’ve got some exciting news to share!

One of the blue-banded Brown Pelicans we released seven years ago was spotted with nestlings in Mexico. This is the first confirmed sighting of one of International Bird Rescue’s rehabilitated pelicans on a nest with offspring. It inspires us with hope and underscores our belief that wildlife rehabilitation efforts can make a difference, especially with a species that was recently delisted from the endangered species list.

“This sighting of E17 is confirmation of our work,” said JD Bergeron, Executive Director. “To see a former patient rejoining the breeding population is an encouraging sign of the success of our efforts, and a reminder of the importance of wildlife rehabilitation.”

Though the organization has been banding birds in collaboration with the USGS Bird Banding Lab for most of its 46 years, it only started using these more visible blue bands in 2009, the same year Brown Pelicans were removed from the Federal Endangered Species List. The blue bands have drastically increased the ability to track rehabilitation success with sightings demonstrating normal foraging, migration and now breeding post-release into the wild. To date more than 1,200 pelicans have been banded with these blue bands.

Brown Pelican ‘E17’ was rehabilitated and banded at Bird Rescues Los Angeles Wildlife Center. Julie Skoglund, Operations Manager, recounts that this pelican in particular was an unusual case in which the flight feathers that support the bird’s ability to fly had been clipped short. The pelican was released in October 2010.

The photo was captured off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, on San Jeronimo Island by Emmanuel Miramontes, a biologist working with a Mexican nonprofit organization GECI A.C. (Group of Ecology and Conservation of Islands). San Jeronimo is more than 300 miles from E17’s release point in San Pedro, CA.

“It’s doubly interesting because this bird is a male, and what Emmanuel has captured is actually a photo of a doting dad,” Bergeron added.

In a world where bad news abounds, we’re happy to report this inspiring story.

Photo courtesy Emmanuel Miramontes, GECI A.C

 

August 24, 2017

The Story of Spot Has A Very Happy Ending!

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Photo of Grebe with spot on head

Dear Friend,

The spring and summer months at International Bird Rescue bring new life, and with it a special time of wildlife rescue and care: Baby Bird Season. This year, an exceptional story about one of our smallest patients left its mark upon me.

This is the story of Spot (and it has a happy ending!)

On May 29th, a tiny, orphaned bird with silver down entered our care weighing only 185 grams, which is approximately the weight of just 30 quarters. This baby, shown in the first photo, is a Western Grebe, a kind of diving bird that is equally at home in fresh and salt water. While we never name the wild birds in our care beyond a simple number to track them, we’ll call this adorable fellow “Spot” for the sake of our story.

As they grow, these cute-but-drab babies become elegant adults with a black head and red eyes. Western Grebes live in large flocks, are adept at fishing, and have perhaps the most elaborate breeding ritual of any animal in North America.

But these baby grebes carry an extraordinary trait that has become most meaningful for us at Bird Rescue. As a chick, the Western Grebe has a patch of bare skin on its forehead, which remarkably turns a bright red color when the chick is hungry. Once fed, the “red dot” fades away and will not come back again until the chick is once again hungry.

You can help us save the lives of birds in critical need. Please give today!

The red dot has ultimately become the symbol of our center’s greatest challenge this year: FISH. Fish are the main food staple for most of our patients. In order to tame the red dot on Spot’s forehead, we needed to feed him small amounts of fish every 20-30 minutes at first, and then gradually larger amounts but less frequently as he grew.

We use human-grade fish in order to ensure that our patients have the best possible chance of success, but this also creates serious challenges for our budget. Overfishing and warming ocean waters are leading to challenges in finding affordable, high-quality fish to feed our patients. Bird Rescue’s fish budget has more than doubled this year!

Please join us in providing a basic need: life-supporting food source for the most vulnerable birds that share the environment with you. Your donation today helps bridge the gap!

Not every bird has a red dot to quickly tell us when they need food, but EVERY bird in our care is hungry. The daily and sometimes hourly feeding schedule for our patients, coupled with the high cost of fish, has given Spot’s red dot a special meaning this year, reminding me how hunger is ever present and urgent for all the birds at our clinics; and that is 221 mouths to feed as I write this letter!

If you are reading this note, we know that you already appreciate our work and I’m writing you today to ask for your continuing support by sending us your donation.

$45 is our annual membership dues and it feeds a baby bird like Spot for a month.
$90 will feed two birds for a month.
For $335, you can feed all the birds in our care for an entire day!

Spot’s journey from our smallest patient to full health as a young adult ended in his release back into the wild on July 14th. The second photo shows him majestically transformed into adulthood as he was swimming away to join a group of Western Grebes at Clear Lake in California. Though we may never know his destiny for sure, we let Spot take flight with many hopes for a bright future for him and all the birds. We are so grateful to you for being a supporter of yet another successful bird rescue story!

You can find a video of Spot being fed and the beautiful mating dance of the Western Grebes on our Facebook page where you can follow and like us. To learn more about all of our critical work, please visit our website at www.bird-rescue.org. As always, we stand prepared for wildlife oil spill response AND our door remains open 365 days per year to assure a safe healing place for all birds otherwise in need.

How will you help a bird today?

Warm wishes from all of us at International Bird Rescue,

P.S. Remember to donate a membership for your friend and we will send them a card welcoming them into the International Bird Rescue Family!

August 15, 2017

Patients of the Week: Cackling Geese

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This week we’re sharing a story of human accountability and compassion, all to save two young Cackling Geese!

Like a good number of migratory birds, these goslings were born in the tundra on the North Slope of Alaska. They managed to find their way into an enclosed pit on the oil fields there, but were quickly rescued by workers trained by Bird Rescue to stabilize wildlife. The company flew them to us immediately and continues to support their care financially.

International Bird Rescue provides regular training for workers in the oil fields so they can be first responders in case wildlife wander into harm’s way. Our Alaska Wildlife Response Center is based in Anchorage and is funded by partners to be ever-ready in the case of a spill. We also handle small-scale contamination of a few birds at a time. Just last week, we cared for a Lapland Longspur which was contaminated with industrial lubricant. Without intervention, contaminated birds become hypothermic and die, or lose mobility and fall victim to predators. Having trained first responders in these areas where animals and humans are in close proximity greatly enhances chances for survival. This is only possible when the companies involved are committed to doing the right thing. Until the day when we can move beyond dependence on fossil fuels, we are proud to have responsible partners.

These Cackling Geese have been stablized and washed by our experienced team. Shown in the photo to the right is Michelle Bellizzi, Response Services Manager, who has been working for Bird Rescue for 17 years and who is one of our most tireless teammates when the birds’ needs are not yet met. The expression on her face says it all!

The birds are clean and should be able to return to the wild in the coming weeks to rejoin other Cackling Geese during migration.

Yum…Cackling Goose salad!

Behold the yummy greens, waterfowl feed, and mealworms that make a nutritious meal for our three goslings.

Usually, we need to raise funds to cover the costs for caring for birds, but our partners in Alaska are paying the full bill for these birds that were contaminated on their premises. We do however need to pay for additional updates to our facility, and we could use your support! To donate to our Alaska facility readiness, please click here and indicate “Alaska” in the donation comments. Thank you!

Photo credits: Barbara Callahan, International Bird Rescue

 

August 6, 2017

Photo of the Week: “Tugboat” Baby Common Murre

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A Facebook followers recently wrote in to ask about the little bird shaped “like a tugboat” on our San Francisco Bay BirdCam. The photo above shows a baby Common Murre that was found in a paper bag at the community center near Stinson Beach.

“Tugboat” weighed only 90 grams on July 25th when he was transferred by our friends at WildCare to Bird Rescue’s SF Bay Wildlife Center. He has a fractured humerus, likely sustained when he leapt from his nest on a cliff though he is quite small to have made this big leap.

Common Murres are cliff nesters and the babies take a leap into the ocean with their dad when it’s time to head for safer waters. Sometimes called “Pacific Penguins” for their resemblance to that family of birds, murres are in reality more closely related to gulls and terns.

This species has had a rough time in the past few years, including a mass stranding and starvation event in the fall of 2015 which brought more than 500 of them to our center. It is thought that ocean warming and climate change are causing traditional food sources to be less available, leaving molting adults and chicks especially vulnerable since they cannot dive as deep or relocate to better feeding grounds.

Tugboat had his daily exam a few days ago and he has more than doubled in weight in just ten days! Murres in care will eat their body weight of fish in a sitting, so this little fellow will eat 200 grams of capelin (4-5 fish) in a day. We especially enjoy these birds as patients because adults will readily take on a surrogate chick, as shown in the photo on the right.

Photo credits: Cheryl Reynolds, International Bird Rescue

 

July 29, 2017

The Release Files: Partnership Helps Egrets and Herons Fly Free

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Snowy Egret released at MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline Park in Oakland, CA. Photo by Ilana DeBare, Golden Gate Audubon Society

This week we celebrate the partnership that helped rescue and release 20 Egrets and Herons in Oakland, CA. Among the bunch, a Black-crowned Night-Heron that came into International Bird Rescue with a broken leg after a tree split in two June 19th in downtown Oakland.

The Snowy Egrets and Black-crowned Night-Herons were set free at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park with the help of our partners from the Golden Gate Audubon Society and the Oakland Zoo.

Two Black-crowned Night-Herons peek out of transport cage before taking flight. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds, International Bird Rescue

“Today, I saw the culmination of a near-perfect partnership! Last year, our friends at Golden Gate Audubon and Oakland Zoo came together to monitor the downtown Oakland rookery and provide urgent stabilizing care,” said JD Bergeron, Executive Director of Bird Rescue. “This resulted in quicker response times for fallen chicks and better outcomes once they arrived at our wildlife center for rehabilitation.”

“Building on the success of last year, our three organizations rescued even more birds this year. It feels great to see off this many young herons and egrets back into the wild,” added Bergeron. “It’s quite a moving experience for everyone involved. And all this in front of volunteers, new and old, and the media — it’s so encouraging to see everyone coming together to do the right thing for the environment and our fellow inhabitants of this little blue planet.”

Many of the rescued birds were residents of the Bay Area’s largest heron rookery. It’s located near busy streets in a downtown Oakland. It has been the scene of several rescues of baby herons falling to the ground during the nesting season. The young birds were transported to Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center where they are treated for stress and injuries.

“Baby herons and egrets are among our neediest patients,” said Bergeron. “They eat expensive feeder fish and require a variety of cages and specialized care over the course of six or seven weeks. At a cost of about $18 per day for a healthy baby and twice that for an injured one, this can really add up!”

Media Reports

East Bay Times:  Herons and egrets, rescued in downtown Oakland, take flight

ABC-TV: Egrets, Herons nest in wetlands in Oakland 

Snowy Egrets after being set free in Oakland, CA. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds, International Bird Rescue

 

July 15, 2017

Photo of the Week: Baby Green Herons

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Just when we thought baby season was starting to slow down, these three orphaned Green Heron chicks came into care this week because of human kindness. After the mother heron was struck by a car near Glendale, CA, a Good Samaritan scooped up the brood and delivered them to our Los Angeles wildlife center.

The siblings are self-feeding, which is a sign they are doing well in care. Over the course of 25 days, they will fledge (learn to fly) and they will be released to the wild. Check out this video of this energetic threesome.

To spot a Green Heron in the wild, visit a coastal or inland wetland and carefully scan the banks looking for a small, hunchbacked bird with a long, straight bill. They are quite shy and will fly away if approached too closely. One fascinating fact: Green Herons are a species that are known to use tools. During feeding, they are known to drop small items on the water’s surface to entice small fish, making them true fisher-birds! You can see this behavior on YouTube.

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Photo by staffer Kylie Clatterbuck

 

July 1, 2017

Photo of the Week: Oiled Great Egret is clean again

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This week, a contaminated Great Egret arrived at our Los Angeles wildlife center. Rescued in Huntington Beach, CA, it was covered over 100% of its body with an unidentified contaminant resembling lubricant. These birds are usually a pure white, but this egret came into care with matted yellow feathers (upper left photo).

Thanks to our rehabilitation team, the bird was stabilized with fluids and rest. Then it was washed using our 46 years of time-tested methods and DAWN dishwashing liquid.

We’re happy to report that this cleaned bird (upper right photo) is healthy and eating well. It will be returned the wild as soon as it puts on some weight and proves to have no infections.

Great Egrets are large birds – about twice the size of a Snowy Egret – and can be distinguished from other white egrets by its yellow bill and black legs and feet. Learn more from our friends at Cornell Lab or Ornithology: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Egret/id

Photos by Kylie Clatterbuck and Devin Hanson

 

June 26, 2017

Photo of the Week: Injured Heron Nestling from Oakland Emergency

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Thanks to fast action by bird lovers in Oakland, CA, a dozen injured and scared herons and egrets are safely in care this week at our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center.

Last Monday in a well-known Oakland rookery, a ficus tree infected by dry rot split in two and spilled wild birds near a busy downtown intersection. Fortunately bird heroes from a number of different agencies–including Golden Gate Audubon Society, the Oakland Zoo, Oakland Animal Control and the Oakland Police Department–sprung into action, scooping up the dazed and injured nesting birds. While some of the birds did not survive the fall, 14 birds were sent immediately to our wildlife center.

After transport to our rehabilitation center, the birds were treated, given needed food, medication and water, and a couple of them underwent surgery to repair broken bones, including the juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron shown above and in the x-ray.

Thanks to local media reports, attention was drawn to these unfortunate nesting birds and the public has graciously donated more than $1,000 to care for these birds. At $18-50 per bird per day, that gets us off to a good start, but there’s still more need to fill.

You can adopt a heron or egret today

Read more in the East Bay Times

Photos by staff veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr

 

 

June 12, 2017

Photo of the Week: Baby Birds…not quite yet!

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Our two wildlife centers are inundated with baby birds, but we also have a large number of not-yet-hatchlings!

This week’s photo shows the egg incubator at our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center with a variety of eggs in it. The top row has a number of Western Gull eggs from the ongoing Bay Bridge demolition project, and the bottom row has California Quail eggs. Not shown are two very special eggs — from an American Bittern!

All of these eggs are from abandoned or disturbed nests. Fortunately, we have experience with all three species of hatchling, so we’re ready for any chicks that come along.

To the right is a Western Gull chick from last season, so you can see why we’re eagerly awaiting their hatching.

Photos by Jennifer Linader and Cheryl Reynolds