Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for August 2011

August 30, 2011

California’s Brown Pelican Injuries Now at Record High Numbers – International Bird Rescue’s Wildlife Centers Pay the Price

International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Wildlife Center is now reporting admitting more than 221 Brown Pelicans since June 1, most from the Monterey area. The wildlife rehabilitation and treatment center notes almost all have life-threatening fishing line and tackle injuries.

Life has not been easy for the California Brown Pelican population since it was depleted through exposure to DDT over 50 years ago. Now with Pelican numbers rebounding, they are coming into conflict with people on a scale never before seen. The toll on the nonprofit is extraordinary, straining both human and financial resources. As quickly as the birds are rehabilitated and released into the wild, more arrive. Its San Francisco Bay Center currently has 76 Pelicans in care, and its Los Angeles Center has another 35. Each Pelican consumes half its bodyweight in food every day – about 6 pounds of fish – at up to $2.05 a pound. The San Francisco Bay Wildlife Center alone is purchasing 400 pounds of fish a day. Compounding the strain are long hours of veterinary care, x-rays, surgeries, and antibiotics which cost twice as much as those designed for humans.

Over the years, International Bird Rescue has treated thousands of Brown Pelicans. Pelicans’ opportunistic feeding behavior, diving to grab fish as they are being pulled out of the water by fishermen, make them regular victims of entanglement in fishing line and severe hook wounds. The hooks can pierce bills, causing long tears in their pouches that make it impossible for them to feed. Hooks can also be swallowed. Surgeries to repair these wounds are currently being scheduled back-to-back from 9 in the morning until as late as 10 at night.

Fishermen are encouraged to switch to barbless hooks, to dispose of line properly, and to avoid casting when seabirds are in the area. The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Florida offers detailed instructions in the event that a bird becomes hooked. Anyone can help prevent these injuries by collecting lines or hooks in the water or on land, and cutting the line into pieces before placing it in a receptacle. International Bird Rescue is also looking for volunteers who, after a brief orientation, are available to transport pelicans, especially between their San Francisco Bay Center, located in Fairfield, and the Monterey/Santa Cruz area.

“We share our coast with wild animals such as the California Brown Pelican, which after 30 years of being listed as an endangered species is now facing another human-caused situation, fishing tackle entanglements. It is not only our responsibility but everyone’s duty to help these magnificent birds,” says International Bird Rescue’s Director Emeritus, Jay Holcomb.

In the case of events with no responsible party to rely on to cover the costs of caring for wildlife, International Bird Rescue depends on the public’s help,and is asking for donations to cover continually escalating expenses.

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August 19, 2011

Join International Bird Rescue as it celebrates 40 years of life-saving work!

Tickets are on sale now for the Los Angeles celebration of International Bird Rescue’s 40th Anniversary

International Bird Rescue: Celebrating 40 Years

G2 Gallery – Venice, California
Friday, October 14, 2011 – 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

In 1971, an oil spill in the San Francisco Bay brought together a group of citizens who saw the need for a coordinated and professional response to oiled wildlife. This moment marked the birth of International Bird Rescue (Bird Rescue). As well as operating two year-round aquatic bird rescue centers in California, which care for over 5,000 birds every year, Bird Rescue’s team of specialists has led oiled bird rescue efforts in over 200 oil spills in more than a dozen countries. With the unyielding conviction that every bird matters they have saved hundreds of thousands of birds.

Reception.    Silent Auction.    Goodie Bags.

Presentation of the inaugural Every Bird Matters Award.

Register for International Bird Rescue: Celebrating 40 Years in Venice, CA  on Eventbrite

August 15, 2011

Your Support Is Helping Hungry Pelicans

Dear Friends,

With the support of friends like you, this summer International Bird Rescue is rehabilitating and releasing hundreds of young Brown Pelicans back into the wild. It’s a beautiful sight to see, and we are deeply grateful to those of you who reached into your pockets and helped us give these birds the care – and incredible amount of food – they need to survive and thrive!

As quickly as we set these birds free, more injured, ill, and starving Pelicans arrive. We will do everything we can to help them, but in the case of natural events like this, there is no responsible party to help defray the expense.

Together, International Bird Rescue’s two Wildlife Centers have been caring for 70-100 Brown Pelicans at a time. Every bird has its own set of needs, things like surgeries and medicines, but they all need to eat. Each one consumes half its bodyweight in food every day – about 6 pounds of fish – at up to $2.05 a pound. See video

If you haven’t made a donation to International Bird Rescue yet, we hope that you will. If you have, our heartfelt thanks. We hope you’ll tell your friends why our work is important to you, and encourage them to join you. It would mean the world to us – and a whole lot more to every bird that arrives on our doorstep. Donate Now

With deepest gratitude,

Paul Kelway
Executive Director
International Bird Rescue

August 11, 2011

Wendy Fox

Our extraordinary colleague and friend, Wendy Fox, the Executive Director of Pelican Harbor Seabird Station in Florida for the last 10 years, passed away this week. In addition to being a wife and mother of two, Wendy was an expert in the field of aquatic bird rehabilitation with a particular focus on Brown Pelicans.

Wildlife rehabilitators are personally committed to providing emergency and long-term care for wild animals in need, with the lofty goal of eventually getting them back into their natural habitats. For the most part, this is not an easy business. Rehabilitators see animals with horrible injuries, illnesses and other unfortunate circumstances that are caused primarily by people on a daily basis. It takes a resilient and deeply committed rehabilitator to endure long enough to become a respected leader of our profession.

During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, large numbers of orphaned Brown Pelicans were brought to the rehabilitation center in Louisiana. Baby pelicans separated from their parents and raised by humans are vulnerable to habituation with humans. It is essential for their welfare to surround them with other pelican role models and give them pools, branches and other items to simulate a natural environment. We needed specialized help providing the best possible care for these vulnerable chicks, and turned to Wendy Fox and Pelican Harbor Seabird Station in Florida, which raises many baby pelicans every year. Wendy took dozens of these chicks into her sanctuary and successfully raised and rehabilitated them to a releaseable state.

Once president of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA), Wendy was known for professionalism, leadership and compassion. Like the staff of International Bird Rescue, she loved the pelicans that she treated every winter en masse. She generously shared with all who were interested the knowledge she had gained during her years of caring for these birds, and she truly lived our philosophy that “every bird matters.”

Wendy Fox made a tremendous impact on thousands of wild and human lives. She will be deeply missed, though her legacy will remain in the birds she loved and the rehabilitators and others that she inspired.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station.

August 9, 2011

Duck Die-Off in the Ballona Wetlands

International Bird Rescue (Bird Rescue) is responding to a possible botulism incident on the Ballona Creek in Los Angeles, CA that has already resulted in the death of over 60 Mallard Ducks. 19 live Ducks and an American Coot (and two pelicans that were not a part of the incident – one tangled in fishing line, and the other emaciated) were captured and brought to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center; 5 of the Ducks later perished.

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Botulism is a condition brought on by the consumption of a naturally occurring toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Usually, the first sign of this sickness involves partial paralysis of the birds. Early stages might show only the nictitating membrane, or third eyelid, being paralyzed, followed by larger muscle groups. Ultimately, the ducks are unable to move and drown.

Botulism outbreaks affect many water birds species, especially waterfowl, every year in summer and fall when wetlands are dryer and there are large concentrations of birds. The toxin can be passed on through ingestion of maggots from decaying bodies. These events can be managed by picking up all dead birds, and collecting affected live ones on a daily basis. Ducks with botulism respond well to an aggressive fluid therapy treatment. Bird Rescue’s typical release rate is from 80% to 90% if the birds are captured treated in time.

Since this is a naturally occurring phenomenon, there is little that can be done to prevent it, but International Bird Rescue will mitigate the effects by having a proactive search, collection and rescue system in place.



August 4, 2011

Every Toad Matters Too

International Bird Rescue has been working on the oil spill in the Yellowstone River in Montana for a month now. To date we have received 59 animals:  an American Robin, a Cooper’s Hawk, a Yellow Warbler, a Canadian Goose, 6 Western Terrestrial Garter Snakes, a Bullfrog, a Leopard Frog, and 47 Woodhouse’s Toads.

So why all the toads?
Toads and frogs abound in and around the Yellowstone River. Frogs stay within the watery and moist areas along the river banks, but toads seem to be everywhere – in fields, on sand bars, on the roads, in our washing tent, in our boots – everywhere. There are thousands of baby toads covering the ground, so many that you have to constantly watch your step in order to avoid squishing them. Many came from eggs in ponds that were away from the riverbed and were more or less secure when the rushing waters rose. We thought that many toads along the riverbed had been washed away in the flood, but the more we visit islands in the river that were previously inaccessible to us, the more we recognize how much we underestimated the toads’ ability to adapt.

About two weeks ago, we observed adult and thumbnail-sized baby toads on some of the islands that had been completely underwater. The current had been too strong for toads to swim to these islands. We concluded that the toads had been underground or were able to burry into the logjams of trees, branches and other debris, until the water receded and the environment suited them.

The receding waters left small pools with surface oil and oily mud around heavily oiled logjams. As the land becomes drier, the logjams and the puddles are an attractive place for toads. Although crews are cleaning up oiled debris in these hot spots very quickly, some toads were oiled as they foraged. There remains a considerable amount of land to cover, and we continue to monitor these areas and collect any wildlife in need.

How do you wash a toad or frog?
The process of washing an amphibian is easier than that for washing a bird because you are cleaning skin not feathers. We use a very light solution of Dawn in tepid water. A toad is submerged up to its neck, and we use our fingertips to wash off the oil just as you would do if you were washing your hands. For oil around the face and eyes we use a Waterpik, cotton swabs and our fingertips to loosen the oil. The toad is then rinsed and allowed to swim in fresh water for a short time to rinse off any additional soap. It is released in a clean and suitable toad area. All of the oiled amphibians in this spill have been healthy and viable animals, and all have been released in the same day that they came to us.

Jay Holcomb
Director Emeritus
International Bird Rescue