Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

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

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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.

 

March 7, 2017

Patient of the Week: Black-legged Kittiwake

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March is Gull Month at Bird Rescue! This relative of the gull family is a Black-legged Kittiwake, and he is our patient of the week. Normally found in far northern climate regions – especially in Alaska, there have been numerous sightings this season of these gull relatives along the Pacific Coast.

The bird in this photo was found on a Half Moon Bay beach, unable to stand. The kittiwake was brought to our good friends at Peninsula Humane Society where he was given pain medication, anti-inflammatories, and supportive care.

The bird was able to stand by the time he was transferred to our San Francisco Bay Center, but was still limping on its left leg. Spending time floating in a pool allowed him to take weight off the injured leg but still to get exercise. He was successfully released on March 6, 2017 at Fort Baker in Sausalito, CA.

Kittiwakes breed in large cliff colonies and are known for the very distinctive and shrill “kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake” call. Learn more about this beautiful species on Cornell’s All About Birds site.

 

February 28, 2017

Patient of the Week: Bufflehead

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This week’s patient of the week features a drake (male) Bufflehead. From a distance, these small ducks look black and white in coloring. On closer inspection, the head feathers show off a rich iridescent purple-green.

The Bufflehead was transferred to our Los Angeles Wildlife Center from the California Wildlife Center. He was found in a rural subdivision in Calabasas, CA, located in the hills west of the San Fernando Valley. He had a wound on the tip of his bill and some toe wounds from crash-landing.

Good news! After just a week in care, the Bufflehead was released back to the wild.

If you want to go find yourself a Bufflehead in the wild, Audubon has some tips.

Photo by Katrina Plummer

 

February 23, 2017

In Tribute to Lela Nishizaki and her Love of Brown Pelicans

Isabel Luevano, SF Bay Center Manager
SF Bay Center volunteer Lela Nishizaki siphoning a pool

Lela siphoning a pool

We are very sad to share that we have lost a member of the Bird Rescue family, our ever-smiling volunteer Lela Nishizaki.

Lela started volunteering with us in 2010, and she immediately became an important part of the team. Her devotion to the birds was evident and she always showed up with a positive, fun attitude. She completed every task with a smile and really helped us all get through long hard days.

Lela passed away suddenly earlier this month and our team will greatly miss her. Lela’s favorite bird in care was the Brown Pelican, and it was obvious since one of her favorite tasks was siphoning the pools in our large aviary. Every Monday for the past seven years, Lela sat in the same comfy blue chair during lunch, sharing stories of her life while enjoying the stories of others. Seeing this chair empty now reminds us all that our time here is short, and we should enjoy every moment just as Lela did.

I was lucky enough, along with a few of our volunteers, to meet Lela’s husband Ed and her lovely daughters at her memorial service. Many of her friends and family members introduced themselves to us, explaining how much Lela loved our organization. Being at her service, surrounded by her friends and family, filled my heart with joy and happiness, knowing that Lela came from such a large group of people who cared so much for her.

Lela and other SF Bay Center volunteers helping at 2013 Pelican Aviary event

Lela smiling and waving for the camera in 2013

In lieu of flowers and in the spirit of Lela’s affection for the birds, many of her friends and family kindly donated to Bird Rescue in her memory. We are pleased to know how much we impacted Lela and how thrilled she was to share our mission to others. We too were deeply impacted by her! It is with great sadness to admit that Mondays without her will not be the same.

Bird Rescue will be planting a native tree in her honor on the grounds of the center.

Isabel Luevano
SF Bay Center Manager

 

February 20, 2017

Lucky Duck In Accidental Netting

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Hooded Merganser flew into netting surrounding the golf course at Pt. Hueneme Navy Base.

This handsome, young Hooded Merganser was caught in a net – but not in the usual way. It was found earlier this month in the netting surrounding the golf course at Pt. Hueneme Navy Base in Oxnard, CA. Using a cherry picker, a local biologist tried to extricate the bird, but was unable to get to him from the right side of the net. The young bird ended up dislodging himself and falling to the ground, but fortunately was relatively unharmed.

Thanks to our friends at Santa Barbara Wildlife Network for stabilizing the merganser before it was transported to our Los Angeles Wildlife Center in San Pedro. It had a luxated (dislocated) toe tip and recuperating in one of our pelagic pools.

Hooded Mergansers are diving ducks and the smallest of three merganser species. Named for their elegant head crests, these little ducks are found in small ponds and along rivers hunting for fish, crayfish, and more. Read more on the Audubon site

Hooded Merganser photo by Katrina Plummer

 

February 7, 2017

Share your love of birds with that special someone this Valentine’s Day!

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Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Make a $70 gift and receive a beautiful Bird Rescue 2017 calendar, a mixed flock Membership, and Redhead diving duck photo print! Your gift honors a loved one and makes sure aquatic birds in need get the best care.

Please note: Order by midnight Wednesday, February 8th, to ensure delivery by Valentine’s Day!

 

February 2, 2017

Young Scientists Give Us Hope

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pa-kids-2Who are some of the folks most interested in preventing oil spills and cleaning up injured wildlife? That’s right: The Next Generation!

Recently, our Response Services Manager Michelle Bellizzi, met with a talented and determined young group of burgeoning scientists from Pennsylvania via video conference.

These young up-and-comers are investigating new products to remove oil from feathers. They hope someday this will make oiled bird care easier on the birds and on the people that clean them. Because we’ve had lots of experience perfecting the washing of birds using Dawn dishwashing liquid, they looked to us at International Bird Rescue for our perspective.

One of the reasons this group also sought out Bird Rescue is that they are competing in the First Lego League – an international robotics competition, with a Regional Championship in Philadelphia this weekend. One of the features of this league is to work on a project related to the annual theme. This year’s theme was “Animal Allies.” Their team name is called Bird SPA (short for Sodium Polyacrylate).

We at Bird Rescue are always seeking the best ways to care for oiled wildlife, and are excited to hear that youthful allies also are searching for new discoveries and inventions!

 

January 31, 2017

Celebrating Volunteers​ And Birds With A Nature Walk At Bolsa Chica

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Bird Rescue volunteers join IBR's Executive Director JD Bergeron, second from right, during a bird watching trip to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Volunteers join Bird Rescue’s Executive Director JD Bergeron, second from right, during a bird watching trip to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Bufflehead

Bufflehead

Our wonderful International Bird Rescue volunteers help every day in so many ways. To honor their commitment, IBR Executive Director, JD Bergeron helped organize a bird walk last week to to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. In the busy world of rescuing birds, a trip for relaxation and connecting with nature is so very important.

During the walk, volunteers from our Los Angeles Center scanned the reserve waterways located in Huntington Beach, CA. The payoff was great: The group spotted 41 different bird species, including a very handsome Reddish Egret and a striking Bufflehead.

Thanks to the excellent wildlife photographer Katrina Plummer for capturing this outing.

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Reddish Egret

Thank you volunteers for your incredible support!

Thank you volunteers for your incredible support!

 

January 26, 2017

Going The Extra For Mile For A Scoter

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Female Surf Scoter is recuperating in the pelagic pool at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Female Surf Scoter is recuperating in the pelagic pool at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Every week we get injured or sick birds delivered to us by the concerned public. This week we want to highlight one such rescue – someone who went above and beyond to deliver a sick Scoter to our San Francisco Bay Center.

A little attitude the first day of care. A good sign that this scoter is on road to recovery. Photo by Jennifer Linander

A little attitude during first day of care is a good sign that this scoter is on road to recovery. Photo by Jennifer Linander

Emily Foden drove more than four hours this week from the town of Westport located on the storm battered coast of Mendocino County. Her cargo? A female Surf Scoter.

Emily’s friend found the bird January 20th on Rockport Beach in need of care. Knowing that Emily worked with birds (owls) she asked for help. Emily noticed the Scoter was very cold, so she warmed her up and offered her some fluids. Turning to the internet Emily then did some research to find the best place for care. The good folks at Sonoma Wildlife in Petaluma referred her to us. It took her over 4 hours to bring the Scoter to Fairfield.

When the Scoter arrived senior rehab tech, Jennifer Linander, opened the box she was huffing, but only little thin and dehydrated. As Jennifer noted the bird was BAR for “Bright, Alert and Responsive.”

Emily said she just “wanted her to have the best chance” for survival. For going the extra mile we want to say thanks to Emily and the hundreds of other folks that go long distances in effort to help save our treasured wildlife.

Also: See the Scoter on our live BirdCam: https://www.bird-rescue.org/birdcams/live-san-francisco-bay-center.aspx

 

January 12, 2017

New Year Brings Back a Familiar Face

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n39_bbp_2016Earlier this month, a Brown Pelican with the blue band “N39” came back into care, after two previous stays with us.

This individual, who was last in care in last July for an abdominal puncture and a toe injury, was released last summer after those wounds healed. He first arrived in care nearly seven years ago at our San Francisco wildlife center after being stranded on January 29, 2010 in Monterey, California. The bird was emaciated, anemic, and had contaminated feathers. He was treated and released with the blue band “A91” in mid-February of that same year. His blue band was damaged and therefore was replaced during his second stay, and he became “N39”.

He has been spotted many times over the years through our blue-banded pelican reporting tool:

• Santa Barbara, 4/1/2010
San Pedro, 2/9/2012
Westport, WA 7/27, 7/31, and 8/13/2013
Marina del Rey, 4/5/2014
Ballona Creek 5/5/2014
Moss Landing, 1/24/2015

Now he is back with a sea lion bite! Although this is a serious injury, he is expected to heal fully as pelicans are among our most resilient patients! Learn more about our Blue-Banded Pelican Program here.

Photo by Bill Steinkamp

January 3, 2017

The Release Files: Entangled Pelican rescued and returned to the wild

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After three months of care, X34 was released back to the wild. Photo by Jennifer Linander – International Bird Rescue

Thanks to two of our volunteers, a fishing line entangled Brown Pelican is alive, well, and back in the wild.

Last September, two of our long-time transport volunteers, Joan Teitler and Larry Bidinian, who live down in Santa Cruz, were visiting Scott Creek Beach when they saw an animal in need. Of course, once an animal rescuer, it’s hard not to find animals in need of rescuing!

Joan and Larry sighted an entangled Brown Pelican, and with much patience, were able to catch the bird. After spending a day at Native Animal Rescue (NAR) in Santa Cruz, the bird was brought to our San Francisco Bay Area Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for care. He had wounds on both of his wings and on his right leg from being entangled in the fishing line.

The wing wounds healed quickly, but the wound on his right leg became severely infected, as such injuries often do. He had a large abscess running from mid-leg down to and around the bottom of his foot and down his outermost toe. Our vet had to surgically open it up and flush it out to manage the infection. She even put in a drain (drains are usually not needed when treating birds). It took three surgeries and more than a month of wound care before the injuries and infection were resolved.

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Our vet had to amputate part of the Pelican’s toe that had been too damaged by an abscess. Photo by Rebecca Duerr – International Bird Rescue

After an entire month of being “dry-docked” for wound management and wraps, he was able to start living out in our Pelican Aviary. He needed to have a final surgery to amputate part of the toe that had been too damaged by the abscess, but it healed great. We have had many re-sightings of pelicans with similar toe amputations in the past, so we were confident this would not affect his successful to return to the wild.

We are very happy to report that this bird was finally released at Fort Baker December 11, 2016 – after more than 3 months in care! He is sporting blue band X34.

He was released with his aviary buddy X33 – a female pelican who was rescued thin and freezing cold on September 12, at Stinson Beach. X33 was brought to WildCare in San Rafael where they stabilized her and transferred her to us a few days later. She was living in our pelican aviary for a while, and had put on a good amount of weight, but wasn’t flying very well initially. However, once X34 started living in the aviary alongside her, he would fly around and she started flying after him! They would always hang out together and whenever he flew somewhere, she would follow. Fortunately, they were both ready to release at the same time so they were released as a pair.

Don’t be surprised if these two are sighted together later—we have previously had aviary buddies who were released together sighted hanging out at the same location years later!

Keep your eye out for these two, and if you see them or any of our other former patients sporting blue plastic bands, please report them through our online reporting form.

Also: Learn more about Bird Rescue’s Pelican Blue Banding Program

 

December 31, 2016

**LAST CHANCE** Your donation will be matched!

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donate-midnightGreetings, Bird Rescue Family:

This beautiful Northern Fulmar carries a message of THANKS! We are within $5,000 of our year-end goal.

To that end, an anonymous donor has stepped up to match your gift today up to $2,000! Please give generously today and DOUBLE YOUR DONATION! Your gift is fully tax-deductible and will ensure proper care and shelter for injured and oiled birds to recover and be released back into the wild.

It’s not too late to help us reach our $75,000 year-end fundraising goal this year, which goes directly to helping more than 5,000 injured, sick, orphaned and oiled sea and water birds each year. We’re so close to reaching our goal, and we cannot do it without your support!

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December 31, 2016

Can You Fix This Printer?

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Dear Bird Rescue Supporter,

Nearly 20 years ago I stumbled into this organization as a volunteer that only had one request from me: Can you fix this printer? Back then the non-working printer was at Bird Rescue’s Berkeley ram-shackled headquarters in Aquatic Park. When I said Yes, it opened me up to the important and awe-inspiring work of wildlife rescue.

murre-release-2015Along the way I’ve learned how to clean bird pools, build net-bottom caging and to mostly tell the difference between the species of grebes. I got really hooked when I was asked to help in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2000 to assist in saving 20,000 oiled African Penguins. Yes, I have the scars to prove it and a list of life-long friends from the international community of wildlife lovers.

Last year in the San Francisco Bay Area, I learned that the public loves its wild birds as much as I do. When hundreds of scoters, grebes and other aquatic birds came to our Northern California fouled by a mystery goo, everyday people responded. They opened their generous hearts and checkbooks and made the difference for these suffering animals. They saw the birds as vital to our natural world as the air we breathe.

I now help manage the technology at Bird Rescue which includes making sure more than just the printers work. We have website and blog, live bird cams and thriving social media to educate the public. During big events, I help share the bird’s story by sharing it with the media.

Working at Bird Rescue is a family affair and my 13-year-old daughter has grown up around all this activity. Ask her to help me fix a problematic printer and you will get the teenage eye roll. Ask her if she wants to go on a bird release, and she’s the first one out the door. During more than one release she has opened the cage doors and I have seen the delight in her eyes as healthy birds return to the wild. (See video)

If you believe in the birds as much as I do, won’t you please contribute with a donation for our efforts here on the West Coast and around the world?

Thank you,

russ-sig-web

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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