Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for January 2012

January 30, 2012

Rare Albatross Set For Release by International Bird Rescue

The Laysan Albatross at International Bird Rescue's Los Angeles Wildlife Center

On Tuesday, January 31, International Bird Rescue’s Wildlife Center in Los Angeles will release a majestic Laysan Albatross back to its ocean home. The question remains: How did an exotic bird that thrives in North Pacific waters from Hawaii to Alaska arrive in California? Even more perplexing: How did this giant seabird, with a 6 foot 9 inch wingspan, make it into the bed of a local pickup truck?

Concerned citizens saw the Albatross being driven around in the back of the truck and flagged down the driver. Made aware of his stowaway, the driver brought the bird to the Los Angeles County Lifeguards at Cabrillo Beach for assistance. The lifeguards in turn brought the Albatross to International Bird Rescue.

International Bird Rescue, which specializes in the rescue and rehabilitation of seabirds and other aquatic birds, has provided care to many other seabird stowaways in its 40-year history. The stowaway phenomenon is generally considered to be a simple case of mistaken identity. Laysan Albatrosses, which can remain at sea for 3-5 years at a time, can see the flat surface of a cargo ship as the perfect new nesting island during breeding season. They sit quietly among the cargo containers and are not discovered until their moving island, the ship, is unloaded.

These birds are often brought to one of International Bird Rescue’s Wildlife Centers in California, where they are evaluated and, usually within a few days, released off of the coast to fly back to Hawaii, or wherever they choose.

The Laysan Albatross during its evaluation in the clinic at International Bird Rescue. This majestic bird has an impressive 6 foot 9 inch wingspan.

This Laysan Albatross may indeed have been a double stowaway – once on a ship crossing the Pacific and then again in the truck. While the bird may have seen the local’s truck bed as another cozy island, the dry, compact space that initially attracted the Albatross became more of a trap, since this species of bird requires a long water runway to get airborne.

Upon arrival at International Bird Rescue, the Laysan Albatross was evaluated and found to be in good condition, but a simple shoreline release will not suffice for this special bird. When Albatrosses are released from the beach, they are sometimes tempted to return to shore, where even a pet dog can pose a threat. To avoid such dangers, the Albatross will be given a ride in a Los Angeles City Lifeguard Service boat about a half-mile out into the Pacific Ocean to take flight.

“International Bird Rescue knows that Laysan Albatrosses are capable of soaring great distances, and once released we hope that it will head back to the Hawaiian Islands to nest with other Laysan Albatrosses,” says Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue’s Director Emeritus. “Its journey should only take a few days.”

International Bird Rescue believes that every bird matters, and does everything it can to give each of the seabirds and aquatic birds that pass through its doors all that they need to survive and thrive. International Bird Rescue welcomes donations at www.Bird-Rescue.org to help offset its expenses for each of the 5,000 birds that arrive at its Centers every year.


January 25, 2012

A Tundra Swan Rejoices

Around 100,000 Tundra Swans migrate along the Pacific Flyway from their Arctic breeding grounds each year to spend the winter in California. On December 16, 2011 one such Swan was found alone on the road in Meridian, north of Sacramento, and brought to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Wildlife Rescue Center for care.

Hatched just last year, this much-too-thin Tundra Swan was examined upon intake, issued radiographs, and found to have a calloused fracture on her right ulna.

At the time, International Bird Rescue was also caring for a lone Mute Swan, and moved them into an aviary together. The two got along beautifully. We kept the young Tundra Swan at the Center for two weeks to make sure that her fracture site was stable, and she gained a healthy 600 grams.

As she approached readiness for release, International Bird Rescue contacted the staff at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to find out if they had seen any flocks of Tundra Swans on refuge lands. While none had been spotted there, the biologist was able to direct us to another location, County Road 162 in Willows; he had seen a big flock of this species that morning.

We followed this promising lead, and at the time of the release were able to audibly confirm the close proximity of other Tundra Swans through the use of one of our wonderful volunteer’s iPhone applications, called iBird.

To watch this release video is to share in the Tundra Swan’s joy when she hears the others and resolutely flies off to chase her second chance.

January 12, 2012

Pelican Love

Dear Love Birds,
It’s almost Valentine’s Day! Check out our Pelican Love Store, and show how much you care while helping to save sick and injured seabirds!

We invite you to read the story behind International Bird Rescue’s limited edition Valentine’s Day merchandise, as told by the artist and International Bird Rescue’s Director Emeritus, Jay Holcomb:

“During the Deepwater Horizon spill we rehabilitated oiled birds in the midst of a great deal of stress and human chaos. I  was very concerned about all the birds’ welfare and realized that the circumstances of the spill made it impossible to effect the change that I felt was needed. I could, however, hold the pelicans’ and other birds’ welfare in my mind as ‘cared for and safe.’ I drew a red heart with a pelican in front of it on a 4×8 card and placed it right above my computer so I could see it throughout the day. This very simple picture reminded me to let go of trying to control the situation and focus on the outcome I envisioned. This practice is based on the concept in quantum physics that quanta energy waves behave according to the observer. What we focus on creates our reality. This picture, in its simplicity, implied that the birds were ‘cared for and safe.’ In essence, I ‘held’ the birds in a state of safety in my focus. I did this many times each day. In the end we released over 80% of the oiled pelicans that came to us.”

Share Jay’s meaningful design with your friends, family and valentines through the seasonally exclusive merchandise found in our Pelican Love Store.

International Bird Rescue “Pelican Love” Mug International Bird Rescue “Pelican Love” Hoodie
Morning coffee in an International Bird Rescue Pelican Love mug works as a daily reminder to keep loved ones in mind as “cared for and safe.” There’s nothing sweeter than bundling your valentine in a Pelican Love hooded sweatshirt or long-sleeved T-shirt.
International Bird Rescue “Pelican Love” Puzzle International Bird Rescue “Pelican Love” Pet Bowls
Wrap up a Pelican Love Puzzle to remind your valentine how well you fit together. Other Pelican Love favorites include our first-ever International Bird Rescue pet bowls, a Pelican Love Beach Tote and much more!


January 8, 2012

Photographers in Focus – Remembering Jon Hrusa

A special, in memoriam edition of Photographers in Focus, our tribute to the wildlife photographers who further inspire our passion for bird rehabilitation.

Penguin Release – Jon Hrusa

Oiled Penguin – Jon Hrusa

Good photographs depict a story or event in one frame, often with no words, just visual inspiration. Capturing the feeling and emotion of an event in a timeless photograph is truly an art form, accomplished by an artist toting a camera. Over the years, many famous photographers have captured International Bird Rescue’s work in brilliant form. One of these was Jon Hrusa who recently passed away after 25 years of telling stories through imagery.

We met Jon in 2000 when International Bird Rescue was mobilized by IFAW for a collaborative response to the Treasure oil spill in Cape Town, South Africa. We had about 20,000 oiled penguins in care and it was impossible for us to capture all of our work on film — we were just too busy.

IFAW brought Jon in to take photographs that would eventually grace the pages of a book entitled SPILL: The story of the world’s worst coastal bird disaster. Jon’s photographs truly captured the unique aspects of this historic event, during which we were able to release about 95% of the birds, back into the wild — an effort that helped save the African Penguin population from the risk of extinction.

Please join us in remembering Jon’s incredible work. You can read a remembrance in the Johannesburg Times here: Obituary: Jon Hrusa: passionate photographer

Jon Hrusa will be sorely missed.

Jay Holcomb
Director Emeritus
International Bird Rescue

Penguins Released – Jon Hrusa


January 6, 2012

A Western Screech Owl in Desperate Need


A Western Screech Owl with Hardened Foam on its Face and Body

On January 5, Santa Clara County’s Injured and Orphaned Wildlife Inc. came to International Bird Rescue with a Western Screech Owl that had flown into insulation foam as workers were insulating an attic. With its face coated in hardened foam, its life was in danger.

As soon as the patient arrived at our San Francisco Bay Wildlife Rescue Center he was examined and stabilized. We administered anesthesia and started to carefully remove some of the foam that was smothering large portions of his face and body.

The Owl Under Anesthesia

The bird had been attempting to preen off this toxic material, and had ripped a big patch from his chest before he arrived at the Center. Clinic staff removed several chunks of foam from his mouth and we are hopeful that the rest will be cast in a pellet.

The Owl's Eyes Were of Primary Concern

The Owl’s nares were very irritated, but his eyes were of primary concern. Both of his corneas had large ulcers, and he had hard foam both inside and outside his left eyelid – imagine a contact lens made of insulation foam!

While the Owl still has bits of foam all over his feathers, the larger, immediately life-threatening ones are gone. Much as with an oiled bird, stress is a serious consideration for survival, and cleaning can only be done safely after the bird has been stabilized.

Injured and Orphaned Wildlife is consulting a vet ophthalmologist with wild bird experience to follow up with the Western Screech Owl’s numerous eye injuries, but we have high hopes for this bird’s survival and were glad to provide him with the specialized care each of our patients deserves.

The Owl Rests After Treatment

The Owl After Emergency Care


January 6, 2012

Your Support Inspires Us

Dear Friends,

As we greet 2012, I wanted to thank you for your incredible support in 2011. All of us at International Bird Rescue are energized and encouraged by the impact your generosity, engagement and participation has had on our work on behalf of aquatic birds around the world.

Pelicans released after treatment at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Wildlife Center.
Photo by Cheryl Reynolds - International Bird Rescue

Heartening news of re-sightings of released patients thriving in the wild inspire our hard work, continuous opportunities to share our rescue and rehabilitation expertise stimulate our research, and your shared belief that every bird matters makes our mission an active reality.

It is important to us that we keep you informed about our progress, as we truly think of our supporters as dear friends. We look forward to keeping you updated on the birds we treat through our social media pages, blog and “Birds in Care” lists, all found at www.Bird-Rescue.org.

Thank you again. It is help like yours that keeps us ready to respond whenever there are birds in need.

Warmest wishes,





Paul Kelway
Executive Director
International Bird Rescue

January 5, 2012

Top Ten Posts of 2011

2011 was a very full year for International Bird Rescue. Aquatic birds in need kept both our Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Wildlife Centers busy and bustling, two long-term oil spill responses brought us to Montana and New Zealand, and we participated in more spill drills than ever before.

We conducted oiled wildlife trainings in Alaska and the Republic of Georgia, and presented our work at a variety of conferences including the National Wildlife Rehabilitators’ Association (NWRA) Conference, the International Oil Spill Conference, Clean Gulf and the Santos Oil & Gas Expo in Brazil, to name but a few.

In the midst of caring for thousands of birds, we introduced our new website, streamlined our name, and ushered in new leadership positions with Jay Holcomb as Director Emeritus and Paul Kelway as Executive Director.

Photo by Marie Travers – International Bird Rescue

Highlights of International Bird Rescue’s past year are commemorated in our Top Ten Posts of 2011, below. Stay tuned, as 2012 is sure to bring even more exciting challenges in seabird and aquatic bird rescue and rehabilitation.

Top Ten Posts of 2011

1. MV Rena Spill: International Bird Rescue Assisting with New Zealand’s Worst Environmental Disaster in Decades

2. For 40 Years, Every Bird Has Mattered

3. California’s Brown Pelican Injuries Now at Record High Numbers

4. Yellowstone River Spill – A Last Look

5. New year, new roles for IBRRC leaders

6. Celebrating Jay Holcomb, Our Ocean Hero

7. Raising the Profile of Oiled Wildlife Response in Brazil

8. HBO’s Saving Pelican 895 Wins Best Documentary

9. Gulf Spill Pelicans Spotted Nesting in Georgia

10. Natural Seep Oiled Birds Continue to Flood IBRRC