Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

May 20, 2017

Photo of the Week: Caspian Tern With Fishhook In Wing

Bird-Rescue

Check out this beautiful Caspian Tern, photographed by Alex Viduetsky from the oceanic jetty in Playa Del Rey, California.

Now look closer and you’ll see what Alex also saw: “Unexpectedly, a Caspian Tern with a fishhook in its right wing flew above my head. It made me think how many birds are getting hooked and how many of them are capable of breaking free?”

The answer is that we see many, many birds that have been hooked or entangled, and next to none of them are capable of unhooking themselves. Many hooks are ingested.

Fishing line and fish hooks are the single most frequent problem we treat at Bird Rescue. Please help by picking up fishing debris wherever you see it!

 

May 11, 2017

For Mother’s Day: Adopt a Duckling!

Bird-Rescue

Everybody needs a Mom! These orphaned Ducklings are a reminder that Mother’s Day (May 14th) is just a around the corner. What better way to celebrate than with a bird adoption.

Adopt a bird in your Mom’s name and download a customizable PDF adoption certificate. With a $125 donation you can adopt a clutch of Ducklings. For as little as $25, you can symbolically adopt a single Duckling!

Each spring hundreds of ducklings stream into our California centers in search of a meal, a warm home and some TLC. In care this week we have 167 Dabbling Ducks and ducklings. You can help. Support their care and make Mom proud, too.

 

May 9, 2017

Patient of the Week: Black-crowned Night-Heron

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Oh, how this baby has grown! When this Black-crowned Night-Heron came to us after being rescued from a downtown Oakland rookery in mid-April it weighed just 45 grams (shown at right) and looked like it might not make it another day.

Black-crowned Night-Heron chick arrived at 45 grams and looked like it might not make it another day. It now weighs more than 500 grams (top). Photos by Cheryl Reynolds-International Bird Rescue

Thanks to a strong will to live, and the great care of our team at the San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center, this heron has thrived and now weighs more than 500 grams (see above).

More than 800 herons and egrets pass through our clinic doors each year, and the egrets have only just begun arriving! The average baby heron spends 40 days in care and runs up a $600 bill. Injured birds need more time and resources and will cost us more than $1,800. No public funds are provided to support these babies and we rely upon partners like YOU to help us pay their bills. They are a hungry bunch and your donation makes it possible to give them the best care.

Watch a video of a young Cattle Egret learning to feed.

Read more about how we team up with the Oakland Zoo and Golden Gate Audubon Society to save wild baby herons. You can also learn more about Black-crowned Night-Herons on the Audubon website.


 

Bird Rescue Is Hiring!

Ever dream of putting your fundraising or marketing skills to work for wildlife? Well, you’re in luck, Bird Rescue is hiring!

Come help become part of a development and communications team that will encourage others to support the important work we do everyday with seabirds and other aquatic birds.

Learn more

 

May 5, 2017

Celebrating Bird LA Day: Open House May 6th At Bird Rescue Los Angeles

Bird-Rescue

We’ve got a great day lined up at International Bird Rescue as part of the annual Bird LA Day on May 6, 2017. This is  a rare chance for visitors to tour our Los Angeles Center and see our team in action as they rehabilitate sick and injured seabirds!. We will be starting the day with a bird walk through Fort MacArthur Museum and then join the clinic staff for a chance to learn more about our local aquatic species.

For 46 years, International Bird Rescue has been dedicated to mitigating the effects of human impact on seabirds and other aquatic species world wide. Not only is Bird Rescue a leader in oil spill response, but we also operate two California wildlife hospitals year round!

This is a terrific day to spend with the family and appreciate the beauty of the birds around us!

Bird Rescue schedule
8 am- Bird Walk at Fort MacArthur Museum (located next to Bird Rescue)
9 am- Visitor center and gift shop open
10 am, 12pm, 2pm- Bird Rescue Hospital tour
11 am- Visitor Welcome- Executive Director, JD Bergeron
1 pm- Blue Banded Pelican talk- Dr. Rebecca Duerr

Bird Rescue is located in San Pedro. The address is 3601 South Gaffey Street, San Pedro, CA 90731. See Map and Directions

Please note that tour space IS limited, so please get here early to sign up. Our visitor center and gift shop will be open all day with fun activities for the kids and knowledgeable volunteers to talk about what we do at Bird Rescue.

Please bring snacks, water, a hat, and sunscreen to help you enjoy the day! For more information about Bird Rescue, please visit our website at www.bird-rescue.org

 

May 1, 2017

Patients of the Week: Hooded Mergansers

Bird-Rescue

Behold the four stooges! These adorable little troublemakers arrived at our San Francisco Bay wildlife center this week. They are diving ducks called Hooded Mergansers (affectionately known as “Hoodies”). As cavity nesters, the babies instinctually look upward and have already caused shenanigans at the center, having literally leaped up at the sheet covering their pen until they found a weak spot and escaped. We found them running around the floor of our baby unit after lunch this week!

These babies are also unusual in that they will not eat thawed fish, preferring food that is still moving. This means we have to buy minnows every few days from local pet stores to keep up with their appetites! Last time we raised ducklings like this, it cost us more than $3,200 just for fish! Please make a donation of $25 or more to support our Hooded Merganser food fund and we’ll send you a special link to a video of them exploring their enclosure and looking for an escape!! Please write “Hoodie” in the comments section so we know where to direct the funds.

Check them out on the BirdCam, too!

You can see what they will look like as adults, and learn lots more about this type of diving duck from our friends at Audubon: http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/hooded-merganser.

Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

 

April 28, 2017

Update: Loon Crisis Along Southern California Coast

Bird-Rescue

The month of April has not been kind to seabirds in Southern California. Hundreds of aquatic birds – especially Loons – have been found emaciated and sick along Ventura County beaches.

You can help: Adopt a Loon

More than 80 affected birds have come into care at our Los Angeles Wildlife Center since April 1st. The bulk of the rescued seabirds have been Loons. So far 76 Loons (52 Pacific Loons and 24 Red-throated Loons), a handful of Common Murres and Scoters, and one Brown Pelican have come to us due to this event.

Some Good News: 15 healthy birds from the event were rehabilitated and released back to the wild: 13 Loons and 3 Murres. Watch the release video

The culprit is more than likely a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) in the Pacific Ocean. The algae that make up these blooms can produce Domoic Acid, a toxin that causes neurological issues in mammals and birds that eat anchovies, sardines, and crustaceans that have eaten the toxic algae.

Volunteers with the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network have rescued the bulk of the affected birds. According to reports, around 300 birds have been picked up alive from local beaches, while hundreds more have been found dead. Many birds died shortly after recue but those that survived more than a short time were transferred to Bird Rescue’s center in San Pedro, CA. Some of the birds were injured while having seizures on the beach and will require several weeks in care to heal their wounds once recovered from their neurologic problems.

The good news is that we have already released 15 rehabilitated birds (12 Loons and 3 Murres) back to the wild in Morro Bay on April 26th. We released so far away on advice from CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife in order to get the birds away from the algae bloom areas. We hope to have another group of loons ready to release next week. Treating birds affected by domoic acid involves intensive medication regimens and fluid therapy to clear the bird of toxin and treat any abnormal neurologic symptoms.

Please donate now to help support our care of these amazing birds!

“Rescue agencies, research laboratories, and wildlife centers are still compiling data and performing necropsies, but there’s a likely culprit for many of the mortalities: domoic acid, a toxin produced by algae that bloom in the waters off the West Coast, called Pseudo-nitzschia. Dave Caron, a professor of Biological Sciences at USC, runs a laboratory that studies harmful algal blooms. His lab recently analyzed samples from 32 sick sea lions, all of which tested positive for domoic acid toxicity. He’s also had a positive test from a brown pelican brought to International Bird Rescue. Among sea lions, pregnant females are most likely to be affected, and many are prematurely giving birth in Southern California marine centers to pups too young to survive.”

– From a report by the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper

Bird Rescue continues to see more frequent indicators of climate change, warmer seas that include dangerous HABs and Domoic acid outbreaks.

Learn more about Domoic Acid

 

April 19, 2017

High Numbers of Beached Birds Showing Up Along the Southern California Coast

Bird-Rescue

A large number of beached sick and emaciated seabirds rescued along Santa Barbara’s coastline are flooding into International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife center. More than 40 birds, especially Red-throated and Pacific Loons have arrived into care at the center located in San Pedro.

Currently the exact cause of these stranded birds is unknown. However, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife is investigating this as a possible Domoic Acid event. Domoic Acid is a naturally occurring toxin caused by a marine algal bloom. Seabirds and other marine animals that eat infected fish and crustaceans with this neurotoxin, can exhibit sluggishness and brain seizures, and even death. More on Domoic Acid

“The old saying about the ‘Canary in the coal mine’ is real! Birds are very sensitive indicators of environmental change,” said JD Bergeron, Executive Director of International Bird Rescue. “Now, we’re seeing ‘Loons on the shoreline’ and it is up to people to figure out what’s going wrong.”

Pacific Loon, above, and mix of Loons, top, are filling pools at Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Center. Photos by Katrina Plummer

In the meantime, this unusual seabird stranding is taxing Bird Rescue’s resources. They are asking for the public’s help to care for these sick seabirds. Treatment of each bird can cost upwards of $25 to $45 per day, depending on the medications and specific care each bird requires. You can donate online: https://www.bird-rescue.org/get-involved/donate

Loons are one of the more challenging families of birds that we treat. They are high stress, strictly pelagic (deep water), and are susceptible to the onset of secondary problems while in care. Some of the loons currently in care are also suffering from neurological issues and need to have special medications to calm mild seizure-like behaviors.

“For loons, the hardest part is getting them floating on water as quickly as possible under the careful eye of experienced staff,” said Kylie Clatterbuck, Center Manager for Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife center. “Gearing up for a large group of animals requires preparation, supreme organization, and knowledge of the species with which you are working.”

The Santa Barbara Channel is also a busy spot for Loons and other migrating birds moving northward to summer breeding locations.

Thanks to our partners at Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network who are coordinating the rescue and transport of these sickened birds.

What to do if you spot a beached bird

If possible, contact your local wildlife rehab group or animal control agency. If you feel comfortable to rescue it yourself, please follow these TEMPORARY care instructions:

  • Find a medium/large-sized box and place a folded towel at the bottom.
  • Ensure there are holes in the box big enough for airflow.
  • Place the bird in the box and keep in a dark, quiet place.
  • Keep the bird warm.
  • Please don’t feed the bird.
  • Leave the bird alone; don’t handle or bother it and always keep children and pets away.

 Additional information

In 2007: Deadly Domoic Acid killing record numbers of animals in Southern California

April 18, 2017

Teaming Up with Oakland Zoo, and Golden Gate Audubon to Save Wild Baby Herons in Downtown Oakland

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True to its roots: Black-crowned Night-Heron sports a leg bandage wrap in the Oakland As baseball colors. Photo: Isabel Luevano-International Bird Rescue

For the second consecutive year, a community partnership among like-minded wildlife organizations have teamed up to help save fledgling Black-Crowned Night Herons and Snowy Egrets that have fallen from their tree nests onto the busy streets of Downtown Oakland.

Working together, International Bird Rescue (Bird Rescue), Oakland Zoo, and the Golden Gate Audubon Society (GGAS), will make sure these young birds get the best care possible.

“Urban nesters like Black-crowned Night-Herons are in trouble ” said JD Bergeron, Executive Director of International Bird Rescue. “Their traditional nesting sites are now surrounded by busy streets and hard concrete, as well as people and cars.”

“At Bird Rescue, we have developed a specialty in treating injured baby herons, but we rely heavily on members of the public, and partnerships like the one with Golden Gate Audubon and Oakland Zoo, to help find birds in peril and to transport them to our center. We have treated more than 800 baby herons and egrets [from Oakland and the greater Bay-Delta area] in just one season!,” added Bergeron.

Donate to help Egrets and Herons

About 130 nests have been identified – making Oakland the largest rookery, or nesting colony, of Black-crowned Night-Herons in the Bay Area. So far six young birds have been rescued in the spring 2017 nesting season.

Thanks to trained volunteers from Golden Gate Audubon, the streets in the vicinity of the rookery nests are checked daily for fallen and injured birds. Oakland Zoo staff also check the rookery each morning.

When fallen birds are found, Oakland Zoo staff retrieve birds from its reported location, provide intermediary treatment, if necessary, and then transport the bird to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center for long-term care. Having the Zoo’s experienced animal handlers providing as on-call rescue dispatch is a crucial component of this partnership.

“We are thrilled to once again be part of this team effort to save these beautiful baby herons. The opportunity to take ‘Action for Wildlife,’ is important to us, around the world and right here in our city of Oakland,” said Amy Gotliffe, Conservation Director at Oakland Zoo.

Baby Black-crowned Night-Herons from the downtown Oakland, CA rookery in care at Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center. Photo: Isabel Luevano-International Bird Rescue

Once the birds are delivered to our center in Fairfield, a world-leading wild aquatic bird rehabilitative care organization, the care provided will help them develop the full range of skills needed for survival, such as self-feeding and flight. Like last year, the rehabilitated birds will be released into safe and appropriate local habitat, including Oakland’s Bay shoreline. In August 2016 nearly two dozen Oakland birds were successfully released.

This year Bird Rescue is attaching red colored leg bands to all the rehabilitated Oakland herons so that the young herons can be returned to their native Oakland when they are full-grown. The team is also using bandages (“vet wrap”) in green and gold – Oakland A’s baseball team colors.

In addition to monitoring the Oakland heron colony for fallen and injured birds, GGAS has been putting up educational posters to inform Oakland residents about the herons. A dozen GGAS volunteers have been trained to monitor the colony closely and report birds in trouble.

“Last year we learned how effective partnerships can be in protecting urban wildlife,” said Cindy Margulis, Executive Director of Golden Gate Audubon Society. “We’re so pleased that these three organizations are cooperating again to save the lives of young birds hatched in a less-than-ideal location.”

The dramatic-looking Night-Herons are longtime residents of Oakland and can frequently be seen foraging for fish, insects, and other food around Lake Merritt and on the estuary shoreline. They are so distinctive and beloved that third graders at Oakland’s Park Day School have launched a change.org petition to make them the official bird of Oakland.

In addition to Golden Gate Audubon, Oakland Zoo, and Bird Rescue, local wildlife organizations WildCare of Marin County and Lindsay Wildlife Experience of Contra Costa County are also assisting with heron rescue this year.

 

April 11, 2017

Don’t Make April the Cruelest Month: Please Trim Trees in the Fall

Bird-Rescue

Released Snowy Egret A69 nesting with chicks at 9th Street Rookery in Santa Rosa, CA. Photo by Susan and Neil Silverman Photography.

April is Baby Dinosaur Month at Bird Rescue! As we celebrate the sometimes-awkward beauty of young egrets and herons, we would also like to make a plea for responsible tree trimming. Bird nests can be hard to spot–from the bird’s perspective, that’s the intention! So please, please do not even think about trimming trees during nesting season. Schedule your trees to be trimmed starting in the fall from September to January and still check thoroughly for occupied nests. The Golden Gate Audubon Society has a helpful page to help guide you here.

Black-crowned Night-Herons in care. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds-International Bird Rescue.

Back in 2014, a federal agency in downtown Oakland contracted with a local tree trimmer to trim ficus trees that were serving as the home of a bustling urban rookery. The results were a horrifying and a number of nesting Black-crowned Night-Herons were killed and injured in the tree trimming. Bird Rescue cared for the ones that were saved from incident. Since that time, however, our friends at Golden Gate Audubon, the Oakland Zoo, and a group of superb volunteers have combined efforts to monitor this rookery, deal with fallen and injured babies, transport them to Bird Rescue for care, and releasing them in public ceremonies to draw more attention to these birds.

Just last year we cared for more than 800 young herons and egrets. Many of them arrived from local rookeries in Santa Rosa, Oakland, Fairfield , and Long Beach. These pre-historic looking water birds take a lot of care and we rely on the generosity of people just like you to help get them back to the wild. Please help by adopting one of these “baby dinosaurs”!

In the meantime, please consider supporting our important work with wildlife. Adopt-a-Heron-Egret or donate. Thanks!

 

April 8, 2017

Intern Helps Make Sense of Re-encounter Data From Previously Released Birds

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Research intern Andrew Zhu’s poster shows a few intriguing cases of oiled birds’ post-release success. Download research roster: Analysis of Individual Oiled Bird Re-encounter Data 2002-2015 (PDF)

Thanks to a generous grant from the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation (HCBF), International Bird Rescue (Bird Rescue) offers academic internships that provide learning opportunities for Southern California students and a more detailed research findings of wildlife rescue for the scientific community.

Andrew was honored with a 2017 Taking the Pulse of the Planet Award, presented by NOAA.

One recent intern was Andrew Zhu, a Palos Verdes Peninsula High School junior, who began his academic internship at Bird Rescue during his summer break in June 2016. For his intern research project, Andrew chose to analyze re-encounter data on previously oiled, washed, and released birds, all of which had been outfitted with a metal federal band at the time of their release. The re-encounter data consists of reports from members of the public who have found and reported a banded bird, dead or sometimes even alive. Andrew compiled information from these band reports and the corresponding patient paperwork from each bird’s stay at Bird Rescue. Although his dataset was fairly small, there were some pretty interesting findings. Check out Andrew’s poster to see the intriguing cases he uncovered!

Recently, Andrew submitted his research poster to the Palos Verdes Peninsula Science and Engineering Fair, held on March 14, 2017. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded him the 2017 Taking the Pulse of the Planet Award.

“My experience at Bird Rescue is one that I will always remember. During my time here, I probably learned more information than I would have in 300 hours of school,” says Andrew Zhu.

“Not only was I greeted by warm and passionate staff members every day, but I also learned a great deal about the detrimental effects of oil spills on aquatic wildlife, a bird’s anatomy, and the formal research process. Perhaps some of the most memorable moments were watching Dr. Becky perform surgery on a Great Blue Heron who was shot twice and a Western Gull who had parasitic worms in its eyes,” added Zhu.

About the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation

The HCBF offers community grants to organizations in San Pedro and Wilmington, California, to help mitigate the impact of local ports on these two communities. Our grant funds HCBF interns so they can learn about the effects of oil on wildlife, get hands-on experience in rehabilitating aquatic birds, and conduct research to help Bird Rescue better care for the hundreds of patients we see every year.

Does this kind of research sound interesting? If you or someone you know might like to participate in a similar project, check out the HCBF Internship Program. It’s a rewarding and unique way to boost your resume or earn college credit while learning about aquatic birds and the scientific research process. Email Jo at internships@bird-rescue.org with any questions!

 

March 30, 2017

The Release Files: Common Loon

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This beautiful Common Loon was picked up from Seacliff State Beach in Aptos and brought to Native Animal Rescue of Santa Cruz County on March 4, 2017.

She was found to be thin with a small wound where her beak comes together and some toe abrasions.

We took radiographs (x-rays) to rule out hook ingestion (since mouth wounds can be caused by swallowing fishing gear) and fortunately they were negative. She waterproofed quickly but was having some issues thermoregulating, so we monitored her closely and after a few days she was living out in the pool full time and was eating very well!

She was released on March 22. Kudos to everyone who was involved in her recovery!

Photo by staffer Jennifer Linander

 

March 26, 2017

They’re Not “Seagulls”— and Other Fun Gull Facts!

Joanna Chin

Western Gulls and their three chicks at their a nest at the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco.

By Joanna Chin
Photos by Byron Chin

I have been a fan of gulls for over fifteen years. Amusingly enough, what piqued my interest was the gulls in the movie Finding Nemo. While those gulls were not the brightest, and thus their portrayal not the most accurate, I was so amused by them that I started paying more attention to the gulls around me. When you really look at them, gulls are beautiful, with their crisp white and gray feathers. They’re also adaptable—equally at ease on land, in the air, and on the water. While anyone can look at a gull and identify it as such, defining them is a challenge: My guide to North American Gulls defines them as a “widespread group of frequently gregarious, web-footed birds characteristically found near water.” I’ve learned a lot about gulls over the years, and though there is still so much for me to learn, I want to share some of my favorite gull facts so that you, too, might appreciate these intelligent and resourceful seabirds more.

• While many people refer to them as “seagulls,” this is a misnomer. Some gull species travel far inland, such as the Ring-billed Gull, and others are quite satisfied to hang around large lakes, rivers, and shipping channels.

• Gulls have an intricate system of communication. They’re big, strong birds that nest close to one another, and their extensive “vocabulary” helps to minimize fighting that could injure them or their chicks. This video from the Cornell Laboratory identifies and explains many of their calls. Next time you’re around a group of gulls, see if you can hear them making these calls—each species sounds a bit different, but they all have the same range of calls.

A pair of California Gulls and their two chicks. The male is giving the female a nice preen.

• Gulls have impressive site fidelity. They will return to the same area year after year to build their nests and raise their chicks. In the case of migratory gull species, many of these are faithful to their wintering sites, returning to the same territory winter after winter. If you pay attention to your local gulls, you will likely start to notice individuals hanging out in the same place every year!

• Gulls are monogamous. Most will stay with the same mate for many years, though “gull divorce” has been documented, often when there is conflict over nest-site or brooding duties or when one member of the pair is late returning to the nesting grounds. In addition, both males and females sometimes mate with birds other than their mate; these so-called “extra-pair copulations” occur with varying frequency amongst gull species.

Juvenile Western Gull by the Ferry Building takes a curious approach to a fisheye lens.

• Gulls are excellent parents. Both parents participate equally in incubating, guarding, and feeding the chicks well past fledging. They are fiercely protective and readily attack (including dive-bombing) people and other animals (including other gulls) that get too close to their nests. It is wise to keep your distance from gull nests, and to pay attention to the calls of the parents. If they’re vocalizing, they are telling you to step back from the nest!

• It takes time for a gull to grow up. All gulls require more than one year to reach maturity. If you’ve ever watched gulls for any length of time, you’ve probably seen gulls that were the size of adults but were completely brown. These are the “first cycle” gulls, the ones that hatched within the past year. Smaller-sized gull species may require as few as two years to reach adult plumage, whereas the larger gull species need four years. As they mature, gulls lose their brown feathers, replacing them with white/gray/black feathers. Many gulls also have color changes in their bills and feet.

Seagull Monument, Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Wikipedia

• Gulls can be heroes. According to Mormon legend, in the spring of 1848, the first group of Mormons in what is now Salt Lake City planted their crops, only to have a swarm of insects (now known as Mormon crickets) descend upon their fields and begin eating everything in sight. Soon after, large numbers of California Gulls arrived and began consuming vast numbers of the insects, thus saving the crops and ensuring the survival of the Mormon settlers. Thus, the California Gull was designated as the state bird of Utah. In addition, the Seagull Monument was erected in Salt Lake City in honor of the California Gull.

• Gulls thrive where humans reside. Most people are well aware of this: Anyone who’s been to the beach has likely seen (or been the victim of) gulls scavenging food. Gulls are intelligent and patient scavengers. They know our habits and where to find an easy meal. Instead of getting upset, consider that we are the ones making this behavior possible. We must change our behavior to change theirs. Gull overpopulation has become a serious issue in some areas, including having a negative impact on other bird species, particularly ground-nesting shorebirds, as gulls eat their eggs and chicks.

The Western Gull is a scavenger and temptations abound when human garbage is plentiful.

Ways you can help:

– Never, ever feed the gulls! In addition to teaching them bad habits, much of our food is harmful to their health.

– Dispose of food waste appropriately, in a covered bin. Don’t leave food unattended, such as in an open bag on the beach. Even a sealed bag of chips is easy pickings for a hungry gull!

– Reduce the amount of food you discard from your home. Instead of sending food scraps to the landfill, consider composting! Your plants will thank you, too.

Now, head out there and watch some gulls! Most places, especially along the California coast, feature multiple species of gulls. Read more here about basic identification of  common gull species!

 

March 24, 2017

A Weakened EPA Means Even More Need for Bird Rescue

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With current threats to clean water, regulation and protection of endangered species, our work is as critical as ever. International Bird Rescue is a world leader in oiled wildlife response and aquatic bird rehabilitation, with the mission to mitigate human impact.

Bird Rescue came into being in 1971 after an oil spill near the Golden Gate Bridge resulted in the contamination of thousands of seabirds. For the last 46 years, we have remained on standby to respond to large-scale spills and human-caused disasters.

In our everyday work, we are responding to ever-increasing challenges for wildlife in our environment. We aim to provide the highest standard of care and to release as many rehabilitated birds as possible back into the wild.

In addition to delivering the necessary food and medical expertise to meet patients’ needs, we build public awareness and understanding of the environmental impacts of human activity on water birds and the ecosystems they inhabit.

Your support now will allow us to respond when we are needed. We hope it will not be soon, but we must be prepared no matter what challenge may arise.

To see a map of our global spill response efforts since 1971, click here.

 

March 21, 2017

Know Your Gulls: A Very Basic Guide To Identifying Our Local Gulls

Joanna Chin

By Joanna Chin

Anyone can identify a gull, but did you know that there are over 50 species of gulls worldwide? And do you know which gull species live near you, and how to tell them apart?

March is Gull Month at International Bird Rescue, and we think a good way to celebrate this month is to learn how to identify some of our local gull species! We’re going to look only at adult plumage here, since all gulls have juvenile plumages that can make identification tricky for even the most experienced of birders. We’ll start with the basics of five gull species in California.

Please note that there are more than five species of gulls in the state, but the ones we’re going to concentrate on are some of the more common and distinctive. If you are interested in more gull information, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has wonderful information on the family Laridae (which includes gulls and their close relatives, terns and skimmers)!

Western Gull

Female Western Gull does the “head-toss” motion to signal to her mate. Photo by Byron Chin

The Western Gull is one of the most common gull species on the California coast. It is a large gull with a fairly dark gray back, black primaries (the feathers at the tips of the wings), pink feet, a yellow orbital ring (the narrow ring of flesh around the eye), and a sturdy yellow bill with a bright red spot on the mandible (lower half of the bill) called the gonydeal spot. This red dot serves a special purpose: It’s a target that the gull chicks peck at to entice the adult to regurgitate food for them. Although very common along the coast, Western Gulls are rarely seen more than two miles inland. These gulls do not migrate, and their appearance does not change during breeding season.

Glaucous-winged Gull

Glaucous-winged Gull is lighter grey than Western. Photo by Byron Chin

The Glaucous-winged Gull looks a lot like the Western Gull until you look carefully! For one thing, the Glaucous-winged Gull’s back is a much lighter gray. Also, this gull has no black at all—the primaries (wingtips) are the same light gray as its back— and both its legs and its orbital ring are pink. Like the Western Gull, The Glaucous-winged Gull has a yellow bill with a red gonydeal spot. These birds breed along the northern Pacific Coast but head down the coast in the wintertime. You will often see them with some brown speckling on their head in the winter (something you’ll never see on a Western Gull). But just to make things complicated, Glaucous-winged Gulls hybridize with Western Gulls, producing a gull that looks somewhat like each of them! This happens frequently enough that these hybrids, which are common on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, have their own name: the Olympic Gull.

California Gull

California Gull tends to be smaller than the Western or Glaucous-winged. Photo by Byron Chin

The California Gull travels farther inland than either the Western or Glaucous-winged Gull. It tends to hang out in parking lots, as well as near the coast. It is smaller than the Western or Glaucous-winged and has a medium-gray back with black primaries, yellow-green legs, and a red orbital ring. Its eye is very dark (much darker, in fact, than the Ring-billed Gull I’ll discuss in a moment), it has a red gonydeal spot on the mandible of its bill, and it has a black ring near the tip of its bill. The corners of its mouth turn downward a bit, giving it a distinctive “frowning” expression! Like the Glaucous-winged Gull, the California Gull has brown speckling on its head in winter.

Ring-billed Gull

A Ring-billed Gull and a dozen cohorts. Photo by Byron Chin

The Ring-billed Gull lives in California during the winter (non-breeding) season and migrates to the northern U.S. and Canada during the summer to breed. It is just slightly smaller than the California Gull and has a medium-gray back, black primaries, bright yellow legs, and a red orbital ring. It also has bright yellow irises, giving the Ring-billed Gull a very “beady-eyed” appearance. Its bill is yellow with a thick black ring around it, and there is no red whatsoever. In winter, when this gull is in California, it has the brown speckling on its head. Like the California Gull, the Ring-billed Gull is found on the coast, as well as farther inland and in parking lots.

Heermann’s Gull

Heermann’s Gull takes flight in Monterey, CA. Photo by Byron Chin

The Heermann’s Gull is unlike any other gull you’ll find in California. It winters in the state but migrates to Isla Rasa, a small island in the Sea of Cortez near Baja, California, every summer to breed. In breeding plumage, the Heermann’s Gull’s back is dark gray, the remainder of its body is light gray, its primaries are black, and its head is pure white. It has black legs, a red orbital ring, and a red bill with a black tip. In the winter, when this gull returns from breeding, its head is heavily speckled with gray. Heermann’s Gulls are known to employ a feeding strategy called kleptoparasitism, which means they steal food from other birds, most commonly the Brown Pelican. Sometimes they are seen landing on a pelican’s head and reaching right into its pouch to steal fish! The Heermann’s Gull is, unfortunately, quite susceptible to climate change. Because it nests almost exclusively on a small island in the Pacific Ocean, events such as El Niño and “the Blob” (an unusually large mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean) can reduce the supply of food and influence breeding success. In fact, the Heermann’s Gull has had near total breeding failure for the past two years. Conservation efforts and swift action to slow climate change are critical to preserving this gorgeous species.

Share Your Gull Photos

Do you have a good picture of a gull, tern, jaeger, or a skimmer to share? Submit your photos to gulls@bird-rescue.org, including your name, the species and where the photo was taken, and you may see your photo soon on our social media.

Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more beautiful photos of gulls, terns, jaegers, and skimmers!

 

March 14, 2017

Intern’s Data Crunching Creates Better Understanding Of Blue-Banded Pelicans

Bird-Rescue

Brown Pelican M43 sports a large, easy-to-read blue band. This bird originally came into care at Bird Rescue with a sea lion bite wound to the chest. Photo: Michael Bolte

Connor Mathews was a junior majoring in Wildlife Conservation and Ecology at the University of Nevada, Reno, when he started his internship, sponsored by the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation (HCBF), at Bird Rescue. He had already volunteered with Bird Rescue, so he was very familiar with the clinic and the birds we care for. Eager to help us with one of our ongoing, large-scale efforts, Connor chose to gather data for our Blue-Banded Pelican project (learn more), the purpose of which is to garner post-release survival and activity information on pelicans we’ve rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Connor combed through old records from over 1,200 Brown Pelicans that had been released over a seven-year period (2009–2015) and collected data on the type, location, and severity of the injuries that had brought them into our care. He also collected other significant information, such as whether the pelican had suffered from fishing hook/line-related injuries or conditions such as anemia and emaciation.

HCBF intern Connor Mathews presenting his research findings to IBR staff and volunteers and San Pedro and Wilmington community members.

The core part of the Blue-Banded Pelican project is that the pelicans we release are outfitted with a large and easy-to-read blue leg band, and the public is asked to report sightings of these banded birds through our website. Given that there were hundreds of reported sightings, Connor had his work cut out for him in trying to match each bird’s patient record with the corresponding blue-banded Brown Pelican sighting and re-sighting information. After days of data analysis, Connor arrived at many important results, but the most interesting one was the sheer number of banded birds that have been encountered and reported. We were able to follow up on many of the pelicans we had cared for, rehabilitated, and released, which allowed us to see how well many of them were doing back in the wild (check out a success story here).

Band Return Conclusions

• Pelicans that are in care for smaller amounts of time tend to survive longer after release

• Contaminated pelicans also tend to survive longer after release than pelicans with other types of major injuries

• Our Brown Pelicans that get released have the potential to travel very far distances

• However, further research needs to be done to see if our pelicans are mating in the wild

Take a look at some of Connor’s statistics:

Over 1,200 Brown Pelicans have been blue-banded, with the highest number in 2012. These numbers largely reflect the number of pelicans received for care.

Nearly one-half of all blue-banded Pelicans we released have been sighted at least once in the wild!

Does this kind of research sound interesting? If you or someone you know might like to participate in a similar project, check out the HCBF Internship Program. It’s a rewarding and unique way to boost your resume or earn college credit while learning about aquatic birds and the scientific research process. Email Jo at internships@bird-rescue.org with any questions!

About the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation

The HCBF offers community grants to organizations in San Pedro and Wilmington, California, to help mitigate the impact of local ports on these two communities. Our grant funds HCBF interns so they can learn about the effects of oil on wildlife, get hands-on experience in rehabilitating aquatic birds, and conduct research to help Bird Rescue better care for the hundreds of patients we see every year.