Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for May 2009

May 31, 2009

Come fly with us: IBRRC’s Facebook page up

IBRRC has joined the social media world and now has a Facebook page to post information and photos about the work it does saving birds.

If you’re a Facebook user, please join us and become a fan. We’ll be using the page to further connect all of us in this popular social friends site – especially this summer’s upcoming Dawn campaign, Everyday Wildlife Champions. As of this week the new Facebook page has more than 300 fans.

“I see this a great window into the various work we do,” says Jay Holcomb, Executive Director of IBRRC. In fact, Jay has posted more photos and commentary on a visit to the Midway Atoll: Disposable Plastic and It’s Effects on Aquatic Birds. See the photo album

You can join the page here

We’d like to thank Andrew Harmon, a bird rescue volunteer at our San Pedro bird center, for getting our Facebook page off the ground.

May 30, 2009

Unusual “Alien in a Duck” x-ray still a hit

Back in May 2006 and unusual image in a routine bird x-ray caused a major stir on the web that is still being felt today.

The x-ray of a injured duck showed what looked to be a facial image of an alien like face. After tremendous media attention, the original x-ray was auctioned off on eBay to help pay International Bird Rescue’s ongoing bird care. It was purchased by an online gaming website GoldenPalace.com which purchases oddities to support causes and promotes its business: “Alien Duck Migrates into Online Casino’s Collection!

“The alien x-ray is still one of Bird Rescue’s most popular web pages,” says Russ Curtis, the group’s Technology Manager and Webmaster. “Our web reports show that in the last year alone the page had nearly 30,000 hits.”

From the original web page:

The Bird Rescue staff discussed if an alien life form was either consumed by or trying to communicate with the people of Earth through the duck, because the center is located in an area of California known for its mysterious crop circles.

The staff noted that the symmetry of the alien’s face is perfect, with an intense grimace, as if it was in anguish after being eaten.

Unfortunately the duck died due to its injuries. UC Davis veterinarians did a necropsy and the duck’s stomach had some grain in it, but no alien. Bird Rescue then put the one-of-a-kind x-ray up on eBay, with all the proceeds going toward funding wildlife rehabilitation programs. During the sale the eBay page received over 135,000 visits.

May 23, 2009

Change for good: Pennies for Pelicans takes off

IBRRC’s new program, Pennies for Pelicans, is really taking off. Many folks have offered up their loose change to help raise awareness and money to help care for Brown Pelicans.

Pelicans have been brought to our two California bird centers this year in unusually large numbers. They are incredible birds with an iconic face, long bills, unique pouches and they are big eaters. One pelican can eat up to five pounds of fish a day during a rehabilitation!

How to spread the word

• Ask us about special counter top collection boxes.

• Get your school group or scout involved.

• Let other people know that pennies really add up.

The bird center wants to say thanks for all your efforts. Also a big thanks to Northern California volunteer Liz Drummond who came up with the idea. Thanks Liz!

Need more information? E-mail: pennies4pelicans@ibrrc.org

More information about the program is available on our website.

May 23, 2009

$40,000 reward to catch condor shooters

Following the deaths of two endangered California Condors this year, a group is offering a $40,000 reward to help find the shooters.

The Center for Biological Diversity this week began distributing wanted posters offering the reward in hopes of finding those responsible for the shooting of the rare birds in the Central and Northern California.

“It’s important to take this campaign directly to these communities,” said Adam Keats, the center’s urban wildlands director. “In these hard economic times we believe that word of the $40,000 reward will travel fast and loosen lips, hopefully leading to a break in the case.”

One of the condors was poisoned by ingesting lead ammunition used by game hunters in the area of Pinnacles National Monument near Salinas, CA.

The California Condor is a stunning vulture that can live up to 50 years. With its 10 foot wing span, it is the largest North American land bird.

The full text of the center’s press release is available online.

San Francisco Chronicle: Search is on for California condor shooters

You can also download the wanted posters in English: http://tinyurl.com/condortip or in Spanish: http://tinyurl.com/condortip2.

May 20, 2009

Saying thanks again to BART good samaritans

On April 23, the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) in Fairfield got a call about a Brandt’s Cormorant hanging out at the El Cerrito del Norte Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Station.

One of our long-time volunteers, Carol Lombard, went to the station to try to capture the bird. It was thin and weak.

With the help of five or six people waiting for their train, Carol was able to capture the cormorant and bring it to the center.

As she put it, “these people put their lives on hold to help me rescue this bird”. They used their sweaters and jackets and briefcases to help “contain” the animal so Carol could do her thing.

The bird has now gained 300 grams. It is feisty as all heck, says Marie Travers in the IBRRC clinic. It’s referred to as a “monster” now, and is going to be released soon.

We have no idea who the people are that helped Carol that day. We’d like to publicly thank them for their collective efforts.

– A big thanks from the IBRRC Staff!

By the way, Brandt’s Cormorants have been washing up dead and dying along the Central and Northern California coast. Update

Note: The El Cerrito BART Station cormorant is the bird on the far right.

May 20, 2009

Quandary in Maine: Eagles attacking Great Cormorants

What to do bird biologists do when one rare avian species starts eating another?

The USA Today has an interesting story this week about the quandary presented as young Bald Eagles attack struggling bird species in greater numbers, especially the Great Cormorants in Maine.

“These young eagles are harassing the bejesus out of all the birds, and the great cormorants have been taking it on the chin,” Brad Allen, wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

The online story is worth a read and it’s entitled: Flourishing eagles feast on Maine’s rare seabirds. Read it

Image: Bald eagle, via Wikipedia

May 19, 2009

When hazing birds doesn’t go well

Keeping birds out of places we humans don’t want them to be has always been an inexact science.

No more than these pictures demonstrate from Valdez, Alaska where a owl decoy is supposed to be keeping Arctic Terns away from a entrance to a boat dock area.

Notice the eggs in the second picture. NOT exactly working!

These pictures are from Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s Executive Director, who is in Valdez this week working on a big oil spill drill with bird rescue’s Alaska representative, Barbara Callahan.

However, bird hazing is serious business in oil spill response. So much so that the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) and the California Department of Fish and Game came out last year with a Bird Hazing Manual: Techniques and Strategies for Dispersing Birds from Spill Sites. You can download it here

May 19, 2009

Something to quack about: Orphaned ducklings

It’s orphaned duckling season here at IBRRC. You can help us care for the thousands of these aquatic birds we raise each year.

It’s only 25 bucks and you get a adoption certificate. The good vibe after your adoption lasts soooo much longer.

Go >> Adopt-a-Duckling.

May 19, 2009

Bird deaths in Chile have scientists puzzled

Scientists in Chile are trying to unravel the mystery of dead birds including penguins and baby flamingos and a massive die off of sardines.

In the last few months, thousands of dead Humboldt and Magellanic penguins washed ashore in late March. Along with them tons of dead sardines showed up as well. The animals littered the beaches in the southern portion of Chile’s Region XI.

About the same time, further north in Chile, scientists found rare Andean flamingos had abandoned their nests leaving 2,000 unhatched chicks to die.

Some fear that global warming is the culprit and others think the cause might be overfishing, pollution and bacterial disease. In the case of the penguins, some believe they got caught in fishing boat nets – something that has been known to happen according to local authorities.

So far the three ecological events are unrelated but more study is undergoing.

Read more in the Miami Herald: The birds are dying, and no one knows why

May 17, 2009

Studying natural oil seepage in Santa Barbara area

There’s an excellent report on the Santa Barbara natural oil seepage from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The study documents the 5,280 to 6,600 gallons (nearly 20 to 25 tons) of oil per day that seeps into the area waters and has been active for hundreds to thousands of years. In earlier days local Native Americans used the oil to waterproof their boats.

From the online report:

The water was calm and flat—dampened by a widespread, iridescent film of oil on the surface. Big oil patties floated about. The air smelled like diesel fuel.

By any definition, it was a classic oil spill. But we were the only boat in the area—no Coast Guard, no oil booms, no throngs of cleanup crews in white Tyvek suits, no helicopters, no media, and no shipwreck.

Why? Because this oil spill was entirely natural. The oil had seeped from reservoirs below the seafloor, leaked through cracks in the crust about 150 feet (45 meters) under water. Lighter than seawater, the escaped oil floated to the ocean surface.

Read more & view photos: While Oil Gently Seeps from the Seafloor

May 15, 2009

Cleaned of oil, White Pelicans released in Australia

We got a nice note from our compatriot, Mike “Shorty” Short, from Australia this week. He’s sharing a photo and news of the successful rehabilitation of beautiful White Pelicans after the Moreton oil spill:

We released the 13 pelicans yesterday – from a total of 16 animals in captive care – rest released earlier except for 1 that was euthanased that was not in relation to the spill or captive care issues.

I am still involved with the spill dealing with environmental matters for the response though most now relate to one of the wetlands and cleanup up of staging areas and revegetation of damaged dune plant communities.

At week nine all is going well though looking forward to the down hill run to completion that should only be a few more weeks



Mike works for the Queensland government as the Manager – Incident Response Unit for the Department of Environment & Resource Management.

The pelicans were oiled in March at the Moreton Bay oil spill that struck in one of Australia’s worst oil disasters. A cyclone slammed cargo ship, Pacific Adventurer leaked 270,000 litres of fuel into Moreton Bay, blackening beaches on Moreton and Bribie islands and along the Sunshine Coast.

May 14, 2009

Coming soon: Dawn’s Wildlife Champions Campaign

Dawn and IBRRC are teaming up again to help raise awareness for wildlife rescue efforts through their national program called “Everyday Wildlife Champions.”

Starting this summer, for each purchase of a bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid registered online, Dawn will give $.50 towards IBRRC’s marine wildlife preservation efforts around the world. (Up to a total of $250,000 to IBRRC). Be on the lookout now in your grocery store for bottles of Special Edition Dawn that feature the endangered animals you can help save, like seals, ducks and penguins.

If you’re interested in signing up as an online voice for “Everyday Wildlife Champions” or would like more information, please contact Kelly Egler or 212-468-3456 by by June 15, 2009.

Dawn and Procter & Gamble have been a long-time supporter of IBRRC’s efforts to provide the best possible care to aquatic birds.

After exhaustive study, IBRRC determined nearly 30 years ago that Dawn was the best for cleaning oil from bird’s feathers:

“…In the late seventies we decided to investigate further readily available detergents. All testing was carried out on oiled feathers, not live birds. As I recall, we used North Slope crude oil. The detergents we tried were “off the shelf”. One, and only one, had us jumping up and down!..”

>> Read more of Alice Berkner’s quest for the best oil removal cleaner: It was pretty “dark” before “Dawn”

More info on Dawn’s Every Day Champions

May 13, 2009

Mystery solved: Why big Mercury levels in ocean fish

Scientists have gotten closer to figuring out why ocean fish have high levels of Mercury even though the levels of the chemical aren’t that high in surrounding Pacific Ocean waters. >> See Mercury cycle explained by Oceana

A new study has concluded that the Pacific Ocean absorbs Mercury from the pollutants in the atmosphere where it sinks and decomposes into deeper water and then releases a highly toxic form of the metal that poisons fish.

According to the report, the mercury pollution is a byproduct of coal combustion, industrial waste and other human activities. The study also projects a 50 percent increase in mercury in the Pacific Ocean by 2050 if mercury emission rates continue to climb. From the mid 1990s to 2006, mercury levels increased 30 percent in the ocean.

The study was released this month by a group of scientists from the United States Geological Survey. >> Read full USGS study

Media story:

Link between air pollution, contaminated seafood: New York Times

How to Avoid Mercury When Buying Fish: Oceana

May 13, 2009

Sad news: Lead poisoning kills California Condor

An endangered California Condor that was among the first six birds released to the wild in 2003 died this week from complications caused by lead poisoning.

The bird Number 286 died Monday at the Los Angeles Zoo where officials worked for more than a month to remove lead from his bloodstream. His weight had dropped to half of his 24-pound body weight.

The condor was poisoned by ingesting lead ammunition used by game hunters in the area of Pinnacles National Monument near Salinas, CA. See the CondorCam

Since 2003, the Pinnacles has been the site of successful 23 condor releases. There are 322 Condors alive today. Of those, 150 are in captivity and 172 have been released in the wild in California, Arizona and Baja California area in Mexico. Details

News report:

California condor dies at LA Zoo of lead poisoning

May 2, 2009

So many mouths to feed: Adopt a duckling

With Mother’s Day just around the corner (Sunday, May 10th) you may be scratching your head wondering what gift to get dear old Mom. How about adopting a duckling? For $25 you’ll make mom proud. The adoption also includes a certificate suitable for framing.

For $75 you can also gift a clutch of ducklings.

The adoptions help us care for more hungry, orphaned ducklings at both of our California bird centers. So far this year we’ve received over 300 ducklings.

Click on the PayPal donation link to the far right >> or see our adoption page on the IBRRC website.

Also hear:

Radio interview with Jay Holcomb on Duckling adoptions
MP3 Format 1.9 MB