Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

January 27, 2015

Alert: First Release Mystery Goo Birds Scheduled For Wednesday @ 10 AM



Great news: We’ll be releasing the first birds cleaned of mystery goo near Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito on Wednesday, January 28 @ 10 AM.

Mystery Goo Birds Release Event Information

Bird-Rescue-Relase-location-mystery-2015WHEN: Wednesday, Jan 28, 2015 10:00 AM

WHERE: Fort Baker – 435 Murray Circle, Sausalito, CA 94965

RELEASE: at boat launch

PARKING: Discovery Museum

WHO:  International Bird Rescue personnel will be available for questions/interviews

Media contact: Barbara Callahan, 907.230.2492 or 415.533.1357; Barbara.Callahan@bird-rescue.org

International Bird Rescue will release the first of the birds that came into care covered in mystery goo from the East Bay over the last 10 days. No new birds have been found to have mystery goo on them since Thursday, January 22, 2015.

The birds that have been in care have under gone expert medical stabilization, cleaning and re-waterproofing and are now the first group is well enough to be released back to the wild.

To ensure the birds have an immediate food source, they are being released at Fort Baker where there is a large herring spawn going on and tens of thousands of other seabirds of the same species in the area feeding.

The East Bay is considered clean, however, as no new goo-covered birds have been found since Thursday and there are thousands of seabirds in the East Bay that were not impacted from the goo.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 6.03.24 PMWe appreciate all the outpouring of public support. Your good words, donations and volunteer efforts continue to make the difference!

You can still support us by donating now. We continue to care for hundreds of birds at our San Francisco Bay Center in Fairfield, CA.

January 25, 2015

Mystery Goo Response: Over 320 Birds Admitted; Donations Still Needed


Photo of Surf Scoters at International Bird Rescue
Clean birds: Surf Scoters after washing. Photos by Russ Curtis – International Bird Rescue

Dear Supporters,

It has been more than a week now since the first seabirds began arriving at our Northern California center coated in a sticky, unknown substance. We’ve been inundated with a total of 322 birds that were rescued on San Francisco Bay.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 6.03.24 PMWe still need your support to care for these seabirds! Since there is no responsible party for this event, our organization is shouldering the entire cost of this mystery goo event. We estimate the cost of caring for these coated birds is running $9,500 per day.

As of today, the state has still not determined what this substance is. They have ruled out petroleum oil products as the culprit.

Read: No state or federal aid for handling bird-killing goo emergency, San Francisco Chronicle


Pools are full of birds at the center in Fairfield, CA.

In the meantime, a dedicated group of volunteers is assisting our staff as we continue to treat and clean these beautiful birds. Updated 8:00 PM: A total of 244 have already been washed and most are recuperating in the dozens of pools at our San Francisco Bay Center in Fairfield, CA.

Most of the birds affected are Surf Scoters, Horned Grebes, Scaups and Common Goldeneyes.

Check out our live BirdCam with some of our seabird patients on the mend.

We want to thank all the volunteers that have given so generously by contributing their time and efforts to help us. They come from organizations all over California and include: Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), East Bay Regional Parks, Wildlife Emergency Services, Peninsula Humane Society, Baykeeper, Audubon California, Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, Lindsey Wildlife Museum, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, OSPR, Bird Ally X, Wildlife Care Association, Native Songbird Care and Education Center, Pacific Wildlife Care, Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, Mount Diablo Audubon, Golden Gate Audubon, Native Animal Rescue, SPCA for Monterey County, Napa Wildlife, Marine Mammal Center, California Waterfowl Association, Beach Watch and SeaWorld.

Other organizations have donated money and items to help us, including: The Hofmann Family Foundation, Procter & Gamble, Ian Somerhalder Foundation, Cargill, Clif Bar, Simple Green, and Whole Foods, Napa.

Photo of a Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye shares a pool with Surf Scoters.

We would also like to thank all our supporters who have responded with gratitude and monetary support. The San Francisco Bay’s wildlife holds a special place in their hearts and we are doing our best to honor their trust.


Barbara Callahan
Interim Executive Director

PS – Donations can be made online or by mail to:
International Bird Rescue
Attn: Mystery Goo Response
4369 Cordelia Rd
Fairfield CA 94534

If you prefer to make your gift via phone, please call (510) 289-1472.

Panoramic photo of pool area at International Bird Rescue
Panoramic photo of pools used to house hundreds of seabirds at our SF Bay Center.

January 21, 2015

Lab Test Rules Out PIB – Mystery Goo Bird Rescue Continues


Horned Grebe covered in mystery goo gets a good washing. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

State lab tests today ruled out polyisobutylene (PIB) as the cause of the mystery goo that is injuring and killing birds in San Francisco Bay.

Since Friday, January 16, International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center has received more than 300 seabirds with gooey feathers caused by an unknown sticky substance. The rubber cement like goop mats the seabirds feathers causing them to lose their insulation and become hyperthermic.

To clean the birds properly, crews are using baking soda and vinegar to loosen the goo, followed by Dawn detergent and warm water to wash out the substance.

Birds rescued are coming primarily from the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay – from Alameda south to Hayward. Several Surf Scoters were found early this week on the west side of the bay in Foster City.

As the search for clues for the exact cause of the goo, International Bird Center continues to care for a growing number of affected birds. The numbers to date include 321 birds admitted with 271 live in care. A total of 135 have been washed.

California Fish and Wildlife officials are reporting another 200 birds have been found dead in the field.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 6.03.24 PMBecause substance’s origin has not been determined, International Bird Rescue is funding this response with the generous support of public donations.

“We estimate that it costs $8,000 each day to pay for the care and washing of these seabirds, ” said Barbara Callahan, interim Executive Director of International Bird Rescue. “And we so appreciate the public’s support of these beautiful birds.”

After washing Buffleheads and Horned Grebe wade in one of the pelagic pools at the San Francisco Bay Center.

After washing Buffleheads and Horned Grebe wade in one of the pelagic pools at the San Francisco Bay Center.

Most of the seabirds affected are diving birds, including Surf Scoters, Buffleheads, Goldeneyes and Horned Grebes. A few shorebirds have also been rescued.

The search continues for stricken seabirds. Today San Francisco Baykeeper, a local conservation group, is helping International Bird Rescue by organizing additional volunteer groups to do more shoreline searches for ailing birds. Learn more

Spot an impacted bird? Report it through our an online form for public reports.

Media reports

Scientists continue to puzzle over sticky goo contaminating birds, KTVU-TV

Mystery deepens: Prime bird death suspect ruled out, SF Chronicle




January 20, 2015

Mystery goo continues to affect seabirds on San Francisco Bay

A Dunlin, a very small shorebird, is washed of a mystery contaminant at the San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

A Dunlin, a very small shorebird, is washed of a mystery contaminant at the San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

As crews continue to search the shoreline of San Francisco Bay for goo-fouled seabirds, the number of birds in care continues to climb. At least 262 live birds are now in care Tuesday morning.

The seabirds, including Surf Scoters, Horned Grebes, Buffleheads, Scaups and smaller shorebirds have been collected along the East Bay shoreline. This includes areas in Alameda, especially around Bay Farm Island Shoreline Park south to San Leandro Marina and around Hayward.

There have been confirmed reports of a handful of listless Scoters spotted in Foster City on the western side of San Francisco Bay.

To assist the collections affected birds, International Bird Rescue set up an online form for public reports of beached birds suspected to be covered in the substance. Members of the public are not advised to collect birds at this time, given the unknown nature of the substance.

Surf Scoter cleaned of goo is recuperating in a pelagic pool at the San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Surf Scoter cleaned of goo is recuperating in a pelagic pool at the San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

The total of collected seabirds has reached 380 as of early Tuesday morning. This includes 80 found dead. 300 birds have been transported to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center located in Fairfield, CA. At least 262 are alive and 55 have been washed of the unknown sticky substance as of Monday evening. 38 birds transported to the center have been pronounced dead. At least 75 birds have been washed of the substance.

The birds are coated in sticky, gooey mystery substance that destroys feather waterproofing, which can cause hypothermia and death. A state lab is working to determine what the substance might be.

Since the substance’s origin has not been determined, International Bird Rescue is paying for all emergency seabird treatment costs. We are asking the public for support to save these precious seabirds.

“We’re so thankful for the public’s contributions to help us pay for this unusual response,” said Barbara Callahan, International Bird Rescue’s interim director. “As a small non-profit with limited resources, we depend on donations to fund this very unusual bird rescue event.”
Button donate to save seabirds

Donate online now

Or mail a check to:

International Bird Rescue
Attn: Mystery Goo Response
4369 Cordelia Road
Fairfield CA 94534

On late Friday, January 16, 2015 International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center received a large influx of birds found on both land and water by East Bay Regional Park District staffers. They were covered in a sticky mess of matted feathers.

International Bird Rescue has been saving seabirds and other aquatic birds around the world since 1971. Bird Rescue’s team of specialists operates two year-round aquatic bird rescue centers in California, which care for over 5,000 birds every year, and has led oiled wildlife rescue efforts in over 200 oil spills in more than a dozen countries.

Media reports

S.F. Bay bird rescue: Mystery goo bedevils experts, San Francisco Chronicle

Sticky situation: Mystery goop endangers birds in California, CBS-TV

Mysterious Bird Deaths due to Oily Substance, KRON4-TV

Two Surf Scoters, one female, left, and the other a male, enjoy a special moment after being cleaned of mystery goo at San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Two Surf Scoters, one female, left, and the other a male, enjoy a special moment after being cleaned of mystery goo at San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

January 19, 2015

Update: Mystery substance’s toll on Bay Area seabirds rises sharply


Photo of Horned Grebe being washed
A contaminated Horned Grebe is washed at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center, photos by Cheryl Reynolds

FAIRFIELD, CA (Jan. 19, 2015 – Updated 9:15 pm) — The total number of seabirds reached 242 found on East Bay shores covered in an unidentified sticky substance the International Bird Rescue reported Monday night.

Of the 242 seabirds in care, 55 have been washed of the contaminant. 187 are being stabilized before they can be washed. At least 25 dead birds came to the Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center located in Fairfield.

Button donate to save seabirdsThree search-and-collection teams have found a significant number of seabirds affected by the substance near Bay Farm Island Shoreline Trail in Alameda, in addition to shoreline areas in San Leandro and Hayward.

“Our team anticipates washing between 40 and 60 seabirds on Monday, and we expect many more to be transported to our center,” said International Bird Rescue interim executive director Barbara Callahan.

“The good news is that we have modified our wash protocol and it appears to be working on healthier birds,” Callahan said. “However, some of the birds that have recently arrived are in much poorer condition, likely because they’ve had this substance on their feathers for several days now.”

International Bird Rescue has now set up an online form for public reports of beached birds suspected to be covered in the substance. Members of the public are not advised to collect birds at this time, given the unknown nature of the substance.

julie-margie-washing-seabird-mystery-2015-webOfficials are investigating whether the substance could be polyisobutylene, or PIB, which is sticky, odorless, largely colorless, and killed thousands of seabirds in the U.K. in 2013. “While on its face, this substance seems very similar to reports from the U.K. two years ago, we won’t know definitively until lab tests are completed,” Callahan said.

Surf Scoters, Buffleheads and Horned Grebes continue to be the most commonly affected species.

Because no responsible party for the incident has been identified, International Bird Rescue is currently paying for all costs associated with the event and is seeking the support of the public to care for these birds. Contributions can be made online at birdrescue.org.

January 18, 2015

ABC 7 reports on the substance killing Bay Area seabirds


Lisa Amin Gulezian of ABC7 News/San Francisco reported from our San Francisco Bay center in Fairfield last night on the mystery substance incident in the East Bay affecting many seabird species. Senior IBR staffers Michelle Bellizzi and Julie Skoglund are interviewed about this unprecedented situation.

Updated 1/18/15 @ 8:39 pm: More than 150 of seabirds contaminated with a mystery substance are in care at our San Francisco Bay Center. Teams will resume at dawn the search for more fouled birds along the eastern shore of SF Bay – including Alameda, Bay Farm Island and south toward Hayward.

Found a bird? Report online: http://goo.gl/forms/cRxIyc1bTx

We also are now having success in washing birds healthy enough to endure the wash process. The birds are being cleaned in various baths that includes Methyl soyate, vinegar, baking soda and copious amounts of Dawn dishwashing liquid.

We need your support. With no indication of the substance’s origin, International Bird Rescue is paying for all emergency care costs at this time and is seeking public support. Donations to help can be made online or by mail to International Bird Rescue, 4369 Cordelia Rd, Fairfield CA 94534. Please consider a donation of $25, $50 or more to care for these wonderful seabirds.

Donate-Button"East Bay Regional Park Event 1/16/15 incoming Surf Scoter"
A Surf Scoter is brought to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center covered in the mystery substance. 

January 17, 2015

Mystery substance threatens seabirds in the San Francisco Bay


Photo of Bufflehead coated in mysterious goo

UPDATE (Sun, January 18, 10:40 pm): The total number of birds contaminated with a mystery substance transported to us from the San Francisco Bay has now risen to over 150. At least 20 have died, though we are now having success in washing birds healthy enough to endure the wash process.

We need your support. Please consider a donation of $25, $50 or more to care for these wonderful seabirds.

Found a bird? Report online: http://goo.gl/forms/cRxIyc1bTx

Earlier coverage:

OAKLAND (Jan. 17, 2015) — Dozens of seabirds have been found on the San Francisco Bay’s eastern shores covered in a viscous, mystery substance that destroys feather waterproofing, which can cause hypothermia and death.

East Bay Regional Park District staffers notified International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center late Friday of a large influx of birds found on both land and water covered in the Mapunknown substance. As of Saturday afternoon, a total of 60 seabirds, including Surf Scoters, Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes had been transported to the International Bird Rescue center located in Fairfield. Four have died, and an unspecified additional number of birds have been found and are awaiting transport by search-and-collection teams.

Areas of the East Bay where the birds have been found include Crab Cove in Alameda, the Hayward shoreline and the San Leandro Marina.

“We have not seen this type of substance before, though preliminary tests have shown it is not petroleum-based,” said Barbara Callahan, interim executive director of International Bird Rescue who served as bird unit leader during the 2010 BP oil spill. “Our veterinary and rehabilitation staff is working overtime to ensure all birds transported to us receive optimal emergency care.”

Like petroleum, the mystery substance, clear to pale gray in color, breaks down a bird’s feather structure, destroying the animal’s ability to regulate body temperature in the cold San Francisco Bay waters. International Bird Rescue’s team is taking the same safety precautions with the affected birds as it does with oiled animals from a spill.

With no indication of the substance’s origin, International Bird Rescue is paying for all emergency care costs at this time and is seeking public support. Donations can be made at birdrescue.org or by mail to International Bird Rescue, 4369 Cordelia Rd, Fairfield CA 94534.

“Because we’ve never seen a substance like this before, we’re uncertain how many of these spectacular seabirds we can save,” Callahan said. “But we will save as many as is humanely possible.”

"East Bay Regional Park Event 1/16/15 incoming Surf Scoter"
Photos: Top, a Bufflehead coated in the mystery substance; above, a Surf Scoter also affected. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue. 

Surf Scoters

Eared Grebes 

January 16, 2015

New patient: Wayward Laysan Albatross

Laysan Albatross. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Laysan Albatross in care at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

This week we received a new patient of note: a wayward Laysan Albatross.

This wide ranging bird was found in the 100 block of Mt. View Avenue, Bay Point, CA – near Suisun Bay. It was sitting on the ground and brought to Lindsay Wildlife Museum’s wildlife rehabilitation center in Walnut Creek.

During the intake exam the Albatross was found to have superficial wounds on its maxilla (upper bill) and nares (nostrils), as well as some bruising on his legs and feet, although no open wounds. The bird was transferred to our San Francisco Bay Center and is in good condition. Its eating and getting some exercise in one of the center’s pelagic pools.


Laysan Albatross with its impressive wingspan, can fly great distances for food. Photo: Caleb Slemmons – Flickr/CC

With an impressive 6 foot wingspan, Albatrosses can fly great distances to find food, some as far as 2,000 miles in a single day. They range from the Gulf of Alaska, to the Bering Sea, and Japan – to the west coast of California and Mexico.

Laysan Albatrosses breed primarily in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands – especially on Midway Atoll. They are susceptible to entanglement in fishing lines and plastic ingestion. Many deaths have been documented over the years of Albatrosses eating bits and pieces of plastic trash that floats throughout the Pacific Ocean. The Midway Film captures the concern that many share on this species blight: http://www.midwayfilm.com/

January 13, 2015

Patients of the week: Buffleheads


Male Bufflehead in care at San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

We’re seeing an increase of sea ducks – especially Buffleheads – in care this month.

Nearly 25 of this species have come through our doors in the past few weeks. They are emaciated, suffering from stress and have foot abrasions. Many have crash-landed in areas around San Francisco Bay.

BuffleheadThe beautiful drakes have a striking iridescent green & purple head coloring along with large white patch behind their eyes. Females are less striking with grey-tones and a smaller white patch behind the eyes.

These migrating Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) breed in Alaska and Canada among the wooded lakes and ponds. They winter along the east and west coasts of the United States.

January 6, 2015

Patient in care: Surf Scoter

Male Surf Scoter in care at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Male Surf Scoter in care at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Who does not love a Surf Scoter? With its striking multi-colored bill and a male’s velvety black feathers.

This bird is in care after getting entangled in fishing line. It had a hook in its his leg and another in his neck. He is recovering well.

You can see this Scoter on our birdcam: http://bird-rescue.org/birdcam//birdcam-1.aspx

December 30, 2014

DOUBLE your year-end donation!



Dear friends,

Just a reminder that you can double the impact of your charity donations by giving to International Bird Rescue until 11:59 p.m. on New Year’s Eve (Wednesday)! An anonymous donor is currently matching online donations to International Bird Rescue. Please make your tax-deductible gift today!

Thank you!

Team International Bird Rescue

Red-capped Plover chicks by Leo/Flickr Creative Commons

December 23, 2014

Release! A Brown Booby takes flight from Southern California


BRBOPhoto by Kelly Berry

Release snapshot: A wayward Brown Booby — found injured in Alaska, nearly 3,000 miles from its range — is released in Southern California on December 22.

Many thanks to our friends at the Alaska Raptor Center and Alaska Airlines for assisting in the care and transport of this remarkable bird.

December 22, 2014



December 17, 2014

Patients of the week: the view from Pool B



Ruddy-DuckBuffleheadThis week’s featured patients are cohabiting outdoor Pool B of International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center. All belong to the family Anatidae, which comprises ducks, swans and geese.

The birds you see here are susceptible to crash-landings in urban areas and are often found stranded in cities following major storms — the variety of which we’ve experienced in California during recent weeks.

The female Ruddy Duck in the foreground belongs to the genus Oxyura, composed of stiff-tailed ducks.

Like grebes, these birds have legs placed far back on their bodies — an evolutionary feature that aids in diving propulsion as the birds hunt for underwater prey, but renders them largely immobile and helpless on land.

Both the two female Buffleheads and female Common Goldeneye belong to the genus Bucephala of sea ducks. They nest in tree cavities and will forage underwater for crustaceans and aquatic insects.  COGO

To date, our San Francisco Bay center located in Fairfield, CA, has cared for 3,154 birds in 2014 — a 15% increase over last year with two weeks still to go before 2014 ends. Your contribution makes this care possible.

For another look at our outdoor patients, visit our BirdCam for a live look at our grebes in Pool F.


December 13, 2014

Our patient stories of the year

Barbara Callahan

Puffins-300x168Dear Friends,

As 2014 comes to a close, our wildlife centers in California have cared for nearly 5,000 patients since January 1.

And every bird has a story.

Many of the animals we rescue live most of their lives far away from the human-inhabited world. Others are caught up in it (sometimes literally) and face a number of man-made threats to their existence. We do our very best every day to give these animals a second chance — to fly, to find a mate, to perpetuate their species for generations to come. This holiday season, we’re thankful you’ve shared this mission by supporting International Bird Rescue.

Challenging as it was, we culled eight of the most memorable patient stories of the year for this holiday newsletter. Your year-end, tax-deductible contribution to International Bird Rescue will help ensure this work remains strong in 2015 and beyond.

Warmest wishes this holiday season,

Barbara Signature

Barbara Callahan
Interim Executive Director

A Patient the Size of a Cottonball

Black Rail chick
Black Rails are the Greta Garbos of the North American avian world: They just want to be alone. A threatened species in California, they’re experts in hiding among marshland vegetation, and therefore rarely are seen.

So it came as a surprise that International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center received several injured Black Rails during the course of the year, as well as our first orphaned baby Black Rail, literally the size of a cottonball. Black Rails are semi-precocial, meaning they are able to feed themselves soon after hatching. That proved to be the case for this chick, which needed feeding for the first few days but then began eating mealworms on its own (click here to view).

To help build scientific knowledge of this little-understood animal, we work with the Black Rail Project at the University of California-Berkeley, which banded this bird when it was old enough to be released into marsh habitat.

International Bird Rescue’s team of experts is well-equipped to care for sensitive species – endangered, threatened or near threatened. These include the Marbled Murrelet, California Least Tern, Ashy Storm Petrel, Snowy Plover and Piping Plover.

Red the Pelican Flies Again

Red the Pelican
One of our longest rehabilitation cases is that of Red #308, a California Brown Pelican who spent well over a year in care for a condition all-too-common to these birds: fishing tackle-related injuries. You can read about this patient in an L.A. Times op-ed here.

Brought to our San Francisco Bay center as a hatch-year bird, Red (nicknamed for the color of his temporary leg band) had a horrible wound to his left patagium — a fold of skin on the leading edge of the wing — caused by an embedded fishing hook and monofilament fishing line. Over the course of many months, his injury slowly healed. But Red seemed unable (or uninterested) in flying. So we employed physical therapy and plenty of regular flying workouts, and in time Red was flying from high perch to high perch in the center’s expansive pelican aviary.

Releasing Red in November at Ft. Baker, within a stone’s throw of the Golden Gate Bridge, was an emotional milestone, one made possible by staff and volunteers’ tireless work to save a Brown Pelican from an insidious environmental problem.

We’re proud to see our work with this species prominently featured in the new documentary Pelican Dreams, now in theaters.

Curious Cases of Crash-Landed Grebes

Eared Grebe with Chick
An LAX runway. The Mojave Desert. Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. This fall, Southern California residents have seen a large number of crash-landed grebes (pronounced “greebs”) in urban areas and remote locations far from water.

Crash-landed birds are birds that have hit the ground and are unable to regain flight. For instance, the delightful Eared Grebe (shown here with chick in tow) can easily mistake pavement for water and often becomes grounded in parking lots and streets. Stuck in this predicament, these birds will end up dragging themselves across asphalt and concrete as they try to reach water. Unless captured, treated for their injuries and relocated to water, they don’t survive. (View video of these animals in a diving bird pool here.)

This season, our Los Angeles center has cared for well over 100 crash-landed grebes, many of which were symbolically adopted thanks to our friends at The Port of Long Beach as well as devoted International Bird Rescue supporters.

Photo by Daniel Arndt/Flickr Creative Commons

Brown Boobies, Bookending 2014

Photo of Brown Booby
This year began and ended with Brown Boobies found far from their established ranges and treated by our animal care professionals. A large seabird that breeds in tropical and subtropical regions such as the Gulf of California, the Brown Booby is an uncommon visitor to the West Coast of the U.S. In January, our San Francisco Bay center cared for a Brown Booby found beached and emaciated at Point Reyes National Seashore. Following rehabilitation, the bird was released off the coast of Los Angeles, much closer to its normal range (you can see video of the release here).

Another Brown Booby recently was flown to our L.A. center from Alaska (3,000 miles out of range), where it was found injured on a fishing vessel. This bird remains in care and is no longer limping. We’re very hopeful for an upcoming release!

The name “booby” is thought to be derived from the Spanish word bobo, or “stupid,” given the species’ tendency to land on ships where they were easily caught. Historical records show they were sometimes eaten by shipwrecked sailors on vessels including the Bounty. Whatever their intellectual capacities may be, these birds prove to be charming and charismatic patients!

A Bittersweet Release: Elegant Tern

Photo of Elegant Terns
For every case ending in an awe-inspiring release, there’s an animal whose injuries were just too much to bear.

Some stories are a mix of both.

Over the summer, our Los Angeles center team received an adult Elegant Tern and a tern chick hooked together by a multi-hook fishing lure.

Nick Liberato, a biologist who monitors a tern colony on nearby Terminal Island, found the birds and took this heartbreaking photo upon rescue. “I spotted them as I was ushering some stray chicks back through the chick fencing and into the main rookery,” Liberato says. “At first, I thought they were just tangled in monofilament [fishing line], but when I saw that multi-hooked lure puncturing both of them, I knew my tools wouldn’t cut it, so I got them over to you guys as quickly as possible.”

Our rehabilitation team separated parent from chick and meticulously treated the severe wounds of both animals. Sadly, the tern’s injuries had already become infected, and this baby bird did not survive. The parent bird healed remarkably after several weeks of care, and was released by our intern and volunteer team at Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach, CA. You can see a video of this bittersweet release here.

Photo by Nick Liberato

American Avocet, Viral Video Star

Photo of Avocet Hatching
American Avocets are shorebirds common to the Pacific coast and sport a most-striking upturned bill that the bird uses to “sweep” through the water to catch small invertebrates. In June, an oil spill at a Los Angeles-area refinery caused a small colony of American Avocets to abandon their nests.

Twenty-one eggs were collected and sent to our L.A. center. Only one hatched, and video of this baby bird entering the world went viral on Facebook, with nearly 1 million views. (If you’re not on our Facebook page, we recently posted it on Vimeo too.)

Thanks to eBird, a citizen science project that tracks bird populations, we identified an American Avocet flock in the Los Angeles River where this young bird was later released.

Pink the Pelican

Pink-Pelican-Before-After 2
The story of “Pink,” a California Brown Pelican and arguably one of the most famous patients in International Bird Rescue history, is one that begins with the worst of humankind, but ends with the best. In a saga followed by national media, Pink was starving as a result of a deliberate attack in which its pouch was slit completely by an individual or individuals who to this date remain at large.

Thankfully, pelicans are resilient animals and respond well to expert veterinary and rehabilitative care. International Bird Rescue’s reputation in caring for pelicans is unmatched the world over.

This patient, who wore a pink temporary leg band while at our Los Angeles center (thus the bird’s nickname in the news), was nursed back to health over the course of several weeks. When Pink was strong enough to withstand surgery, our veterinarian sewed his throat pouch back together — a feat requiring two operations and nearly 600 stitches.

Pink was released on the sunny afternoon of June 5, leaping from his crate and soaring above the waves as Catalina Island loomed in the distance. It was a new chapter of life for this wild bird, one that symbolizes everything we stand for as an organization. Contributions from the community and donors around the nation made Pink’s care possible. We will always be grateful for the support, and we’ll share any sightings of Pink should he be spotted in the wild. Pink has since traded his pink band for a blue one, reading V70.

Herons and Egrets vs. Urban Reality

Photo of rescued Heron and Release with kids
The alleged details of the crime screamed media circus: This spring, reports began to surface in Oakland, CA, that a landscaping crew hired by the U.S. Postal Service had trimmed trees where Black-crowned Night Herons were actively nesting. Parents fled, chicks fell to the ground and branches with nests were fed into a woodchipper.

A federal investigation concluded that no baby birds had been killed via woodchipper as originally rumored. But many sustained wounds from their fall, and were transported to our San Francisco Bay center, where they were treated for such injuries as broken mandibles.

International Bird Rescue stayed above the fray and indignation, however much we sympathized with the outrage that many bird lovers had. Our mission was simple and two-fold: one, to care for as many birds as we could, and two, to educate the public that spring is not the time to be trimming your trees for this very reason.

As part of our outreach, we invited the tree-trimmer responsible for the incident to our center for a first-hand look at these heron patients, as well as baby Snowy Egrets (shown below), which also often fall from nests and onto streets and sidewalks. It was a wonderful meeting, one accompanied by unprompted remuneration for the birds’ care by this gentleman.
Photo of Snowy Egret Family
Our San Francisco Bay center, in conjunction with partner wildlife organizations and Audubon chapters, released hundreds of egrets and herons back into the wild during the spring and summer. Some of these releases involved local youth groups like the one you see here.

Saving wildlife, educating the public and inspiring young birdwatchers: Is it possible to have more fulfilling work? We think not. We are International Bird Rescue, and we’re so thankful for your support.

Snowy Egret photo © Silvermans Photography