Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

July 5, 2006

Rare Tern Colony Decimated: $10,000 Reward After 500+ Baby Birds Wash Up Dead In Long Beach

Surviving young Elegant Terns from Long Beach barge incident. In care at International Bird Rescue.

One of the surviving young Elegant Terns. Photo: International Bird Rescue

On June 28, 2006 reports of dead baby terns on the shores of Long Beach sent wildlife rescue professionals and veterinarians from the nearby International Bird Rescue to investigate.

Read update: Tern for the better

What they found was shocking and horrifying. An estimated 300-500 baby terns, some only a day old, were dead in the surf, and littering the beach. 13 live baby terns were found and rushed to intensive care at Bird Rescue’s center in San Pedro. The baby birds drowned because they had not yet grown enough feathers and could not float, or fly.

Collecting dead Caspian Terns that washed up on the shore at Long Beach, CA.

Collecting dead Caspian Terns that washed up on the shore at Long Beach, CA. Photo: International Bird Rescue

The next night, Thursday, June 29, a second barge the terns were nesting on was moved. On Friday morning hundreds more dead and dying tern babies littered the same beach. A total of 24 baby terns were rescued alive. One had to be euthanized because it had a broken wing. 405 dead birds were collected and are being kept as evidence.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has posted a $10,000 reward. Anyone with information that may help investigators should call Special Agent Erin Dean at 310-328-1516.

IFAW and Bird Rescue work closely in partnership responding to oil spills and other disasters that affect animals around the world. IFAW also donated $5,000 to help defray the cost of the long term care of the survivors.

Anchored barge when birds, Elegant and Caspian Terns, were hosed off into the harbor in Long Beach, CA.

Hundreds of terns nested on this anchored barge when the birds were hosed off into the harbor in Long Beach, CA. Photo: International Bird Rescue

Approximately 2,000 Elegant and Caspian terns nested in a breeding colony near Long Beach. The colony has been a tourist attraction in the area and was known for its status as the northern-most colony of terns. Terns are migratory birds that winter in Central and South America and breed mostly on small islands off the coast of Baja California.

Media Reports

All birds deserve a safe harbor: Los Angeles Times, July 12, 2006

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