Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for January 2010

January 30, 2010

Pelicans in Peril

Breeding numbers are up, but Brown Pelicans still face challenges

From Domoic Acid outbreaks to fishing line and tackle injuries to human cruelty, Brown and White Pelicans have overcome many obstacles in the last 200 years and now face addition conflicts with humans.

Life has not been easy since the California Brown Pelican was put on the State’s endangered list in 1971. While the number of breeding pairs continue to climb, the environment for these birds to really florish is impacted by overfishing and other environmental concerns.

Over the years, IBRRC has treated thousands of Pelicans at its two California bird centers. Thanks to contributions and foundation grants, our bird centers each have 100-foot pelican aviaries to help these majestic birds recuberate from injuries, sickness and stress.

January 28, 2010

Join us at the SF Bay Flyway Festival Feb. 5-7

Join IBRRC and other birding experts and organizations at the 14th Annual Flyway Festival in Vallejo, CA, February 5-7, 2010.

You can participate in guided hikes and outings, tours and workshops on the bird friendly Mare Island. With over 70 events and presentations on the schedule, including one about IBRRC’s efforts, you will enjoy one the best local birding festivals in California.

The event’s website is http://www.sfbayflywayfestival.com/

January 26, 2010

IBRRC takes stock of pelican storm casualties

As of today, IBRRC’s Los Angeles Center has now received a total of 130 non-oiled birds since the beginning of last week’s storms. 107 of these birds were pelicans. In addition, 9 oiled birds from natural seep and 6 oiled birds from the spill in Huntington Beach have been received.

The center is shutting its doors to pelicans and other birds being transferred from other wildlife centers for the next 48 hours to help cope with the influx of wildlife casualties.

IBRRC’s San Francisco Bay Center has now received 50 pelicans and expect another 20 in the coming days. A number of ducks (including buffleheads and canvasbacks) have also arrived, some that have been shot and others downed by the storms.

We will be trying our best to keep updating these numbers.

Media report:

KTLA-TV: Hundreds of Pelicans Rescued After Latest Storms

January 26, 2010

IBRRC Director Explains Why Pelicans Could Not Weather California’s January Storms

January 26, 2010

Cosco Busan bird toll update; Plovers survive spill

A new federal bird report on the damage caused by a 2007 San Francisco Bay oil spill says the endangered Snowy Plover survived the spill in good numbers, but other species weren’t so lucky.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report says at least 6,700 ducks, loons, cormorants, gulls, pelicans and other birds were probably killed by the bunker fuel that spilled from the Cosco Busan Nov. 7, 2007. The container ship was being escorted by a pilot boat in heavy early morning fog when it side-swiped the Bay Bridge support structure.

The bird death toll was determined by multiplying the known bird body count by a factor of roughly 2.3.

According to the report, a 2.3 figure was computed by studying how long bird carcasses laid on beaches, how hard they were to find and how many of the deaths were caused by factors unrelated to the oil spill.

The good news is that nearly all Bay Area snowy plovers — tiny white-and-brown birds that nest in sand dunes and are listed federally as a threatened species — survived the deadly oil spill. The oil spread from Oakland and Alameda waters out the Golden Gate and closed beaches in San Francisco and Marin Counties.

IBRRC was one of the lead organizations responding to the spill and treated over 1,000 birds in its Northern California OWCN wildlife rescue center.

Birds killed due to 2007 Cosco Busan accident:

1,632 Diving ducks, including scoters and scaup
87 Loons
1,133 Western, Clark’s and other large grebes
494 Eared, horned and other small grebes
129 Northern fulmars
484 Cormorants
215 Gulls
21 Brown pelicans
609 Common murres
13 Marbled murrelets
130 Other members of the alcid family
1,421 Shorebirds
318 Other marsh or land birds

6,688 Total

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner

Photos courtesy:

Oiled Surf Scoter in Alameda. (Photo: Glenn Tepke)

Snowy Plover along shore (Photo: Tom Grey)

January 25, 2010

Responding to Huntington Beach Channel Spill

An IBRRC spill response team is working on a small oil spill in Huntington Beach, CA. The two member team is joining another team from the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center as part of the California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN).

So far, three birds have been rescued: A Lesser Scaup, Pied-Billed Grebe and American Coot. News report

More details to come

January 23, 2010

More Pelicans Arrive at IBRRC due to Southern California Storms

International Bird Rescue Research Center continues to receive more cold, wet pelicans affected by the recent storms in Southern California. As of 7pm on Friday evening we now have 60 brown pelicans at our Los Angeles Center and a further 20 on their way to our San Francisco Bay center from Santa Barbara.

California Wildlife Center and Peter Wallerstein are helping to coordinate rescues around Santa Monica Bay and stabilize birds before they arrive at our seabird rescue center in San Pedro. The reports from the field indicate that there are more hypothermic birds to be caught so we are preparing for more arrivals over the coming days.

IBRRC Director, Jay Holcomb, arrives in LA this evening to assist with coordination of this escalating situation and we hope to get the washroom fully operational tomorrow.

Remember that we can’t save these pelicans without your help.

We will keep you posted.

See the CBS2/KCAL 9 video story

January 22, 2010

Pelicans hit hard by Southern California Storms, Coastal Runoff

Heavy rains and flooding take their toll on California Brown Pelicans as Seabird Specialists, International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), prepare for more cold, wet wildlife casualties at their Los Angeles seabird rescue clinic.

Hypothermic Pelicans warming by the dryer at International Bird Rescue Research Center in Los Angeles 


A series of storms battering the Southern California coast are impacting local populations of California Brown Pelicans, affected not just by the bad weather but also by the oil, grease and other contaminants washing into the ocean as a result of storm water run-off. Suffering from hypothermia, the lucky ones are being brought to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in San Pedro, Los Angeles.

“Seabird feathers provide a natural barrier to water, as well as insulation from the cold” says IBRRC Director, Jay Holcomb. “These pelicans are getting cold and wet because the water quality is so poor right now and these added contaminants are preventing the feathers from doing their job.”

“As well as coping with the storms, many of the pelicans we have received have seal bite injuries, a result of feeding frenzies due to commercial and public fishing. These injuries make it even more difficult for the birds to cope with the severe weather conditions out there this week.”

California Brown Pelican Suffering from a seal bite injury as well as severe weather

The center has received 32 pelicans in the last 48 hours and more birds are expected over the coming days. The center is asking for donations to help support the care of these animals. To help save these pelicans (or become a pelican partner and cover the cost of food and medicine for one of our patients) please go to www.ibrrc.org.

If members of the public come across sick or injured seabirds they should call International Bird Rescue Research Center at (310) 514-2573.

January 15, 2010

IBRRC Director to share ‘Stories from the Frontline’ at Oakland benefit event

IBRRC Director Jay Holcomb, a pioneer in the rescue and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife for over twenty years, will be speaking at ‘Saving Seabirds – Stories from the Frontline,’ a benefit event, co-sponsored by the Oakland Zoo and Golden Gate Audubon Society, in support of International Bird Rescue Research Center’s ongoing rescue efforts. The event will take place at 6:30pm on Thursday, January 28th at the Oakland Zoo.

For the past 24 years, Jay Holcomb has led IBRRC as it has responded to more than 200 domestic and international oil spills. Jay pioneered the search and rescue program at the Exxon Valdez oil spill, managing the entire rehabilitation program that cared for over 1,600 birds. He also played a key role in managing the rescue and rehabilitation of 20,000 oiled African Penguins.

Join us for an inspiring evening and find out how a Bay Area oil spill in 1971 gave birth to an international bird rescue team that has made a difference to the lives of thousands of seabirds around the world.

Tickets for the event will available on the night for $12 – $20 (sliding scale).

For more information on the event read the KQED blog

January 8, 2010

Seabirds Rescued from Oakland Airport Shooting Die in Care

Two Western Gulls, rescued from the seabird shooting incident at Oakland International Airport on December 23rd have died in care at the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) in Fairfield, California. Both sustained multiple gun shot wounds as a result of a decision by airport officials to shoot into large flocks of birds gathered in the water close to the runway in an effort to ensure air traffic safety.

The two gulls were the last of five birds found injured but alive following the incident that have since died in care despite efforts by IBRRC’s expert rehabilitation team to heal their wounds. In total more than 60 birds died in the incident.

As we previously stated, IBRRC supports any and all humane methods to haze birds away from airports to insure human safety. However, we strongly suggest that Oakland International Airport reconsider its tactics which, in this instance, were neither effective nor humane.

All the evidence seems to suggest that the birds were feeding on a ‘bait ball,’ a large school of fish that attracts birds and marine mammals to feed in high numbers. It’s unlikely that the birds dispersed after some were shot. If they did, it was most likely due to the moving fish.

The only way to disrupt a bait ball would be to disperse the fish, not the birds. As such, it would be much more effective to consider these events as an act of nature, like bad weather. They are often short-lived and will disperse quickly and of their own accord.

January 2, 2010

Gathering of Birds at Oakland Airport Probably an Act of Nature

Leading Seabird expert Jay Holcomb, Executive Director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), has offered an explanation for why thousands of birds were in Oyster Bay by the Oakland Airport and unable to be dispersed.

The shooting of birds on Christmas Eve at the Oakland Airport by the USDA left untold numbers dead and many injured on the beaches causing alarm to the public and even California Fish & Game wondering what happened. As news reports surfaced, none asked the most important question; why were thousands of birds gathered in Oyster Bay and why were they unable to be dispersed?

Holcomb is offering an explanation with the hope of educating the “expert” who made the following statement to the press following the shootings: “The birds were focused on something in the water at the end of the runway,” USDA Wildlife Services spokeswoman Carol Bannerman said.

The most likely explanation for what the birds were focused on in the water is an act of nature commonly referred to as a “bait ball,” said Jay Holcomb, a leading expert on the behavior of water birds. “A bait ball is a term used for a school of fish that swim tightly together like a moving ball. It is often associated with bait fish, herring, smelt, etc. hence a bait ball. When bait balls happen they attract birds and marine mammals who take the opportunity to feed. Bait balls move, and the birds move with them. A question to ask is did the birds disperse after some were shot? It’s unlikely and if they did it was most likely due to the moving fish. The only way to disrupt a bait ball would be to disperse the fish, not the birds.” Birds like pelicans dive from the air to catch the fish but cormorants and most other fish eating birds do not.

IBRRC was contacted late on December 23rd and was asked to assist in capturing injured birds south of the Oakland airport. Five birds with gun shot wounds were transported to IBRRC’s hospital in Fairfield. Three died and two are in guarded condition.

Holcomb says IBRRC supports any and all humane methods to haze birds away from airports to insure human safely. If these methods are not effective and government officials approve the killing of birds near an airport, it is our opinion that this must be done quickly, professionally and humanely. This also means that the bodies of dead birds should be picked up and any live injured birds should be humanely euthanized.

In the case of the Oyster Point incident local authorities were not informed that birds would be shot. At least 60 birds of various fish eating species, including brown pelicans, cormorants and gulls were shot and their bodies left floating in the area creating a concern that a poaching incident had occurred. Additionally a number of live injured birds with bloody broken wings and other injuries were found by the public creating an unnecessary incident that created emotional stress to people’s lives and forced IBRRC to pick up the cost of capturing the birds and caring for survivors.

“The chance of a bait ball occurring again in that location is rare. Should it happen again the airport biologist will hopefully recognize that this is an act of nature, just like the weather, allow the fish and birds to move off and make decisions accordingly.”