Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for February 2012

February 28, 2012

Please Join Us!

A 40-Year Retrospective & The Future of Bird Rescue

Cocktails           Light Hors d’oeuvres            Silent Auction

The David Brower Center

Berkeley, California
Friday, April 20, 2012
6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Space is limited. Purchase tickets in advance.




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, with its first wildlife rescue center in Berkeley’s Aquatic Park.

Working on behalf of aquatic birds around the globe, International Bird Rescue’s team of specialists has led oiled bird rescue efforts at over 200 oil spills in more than a dozen countries. The non-profit pairs rescue with year-round rehabilitation at two California aquatic bird rescue centers, caring for 5,000 avian patients each year.

With the unyielding conviction that every bird matters, International Bird Rescue has saved hundreds of thousands of birds.


February 28, 2012

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Albatrosses nesting in a field of plastic on Midway Atoll

I am one of the few people who have been fortunate enough to visit Midway Atoll in the northern part of the Hawaiian Archipegelo; in fact, I’ve made it there twice! Midway is famous as a nesting site for millions of pelagic seabirds such as Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, Bonnin’s Petrels, endangered Laysan Ducks and many more.

My first visit, over 10 years ago, was to train US Fish & Wildlife personnel to be better prepared for oil spills should they occur in this remote part of the world. The second trip, only 7 years ago, was to help in the annual bird census. We were required to spend three weeks on the main island, but I had no problem with that — it was awesome.

The beauty of the place was overwhelming, but unfortunately what really caught my attention was the trash. Beaches that should be pristine were littered with plastic of all kinds, as far as you could see. It was shocking and disturbing to see that Albatrosses were feeding the smaller pieces of plastic to their chicks. As Albatross parents swooped down to grab surface-floating food they could not tell the difference between the squid and fish they needed and the trash that littered the area.

There were literally hundreds of thousands of Albatross nests on the Atoll, and every nest had pieces of plastic in or around it. Some nests even contained the skeletons of Albatross chicks that died due to dehydration from eating too much plastic and not enough juicy, liquid-filled squid.

For a powerful visual of what we saw check out Jean-Michel Cousteau’s short video on YouTube.

I bring all this up to highlight the release of an excellent new book called I’m Not a Plastic Bag by Rachel Hope-Allison. Allison’s story, published in association with JeffCorwinConnect, is told entirely without words and follows the journey of a few pieces of discarded trash—a supermarket plastic bag and an old umbrella—all the way out to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Here, the bag and the umbrella join together into a tragic and destructive island of trash, which searches for its place amidst the fragile beauty of nature. This graphic novel depicts a very real phenomenon known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an accumulation of human consumer waste that floats in an area between Hawaii and the California coastline.

This book is brilliant! Take this opportunity to learn about plastics and how we are responsible for the damage they do. It’s all preventable!

Jay Holcomb
Director Emeritus
International Bird Rescue

February 21, 2012

Unidentified Flying Objects

Mysterious x-ray of a Coot, in care at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center

At International Bird Rescue there’s something about anniversaries and weird x-rays.

Five years ago, as our nonprofit reached its 35th anniversary, we received quite a bit of attention over a Mallard Duck whose x-ray seemed to contain the oblong face of an alien. With a spooky grimace and socket-like eyes staring out from the Mallard’s stomach, this x-ray got more Internet buzz than many of International Bird Rescue’s greatest accomplishments. The original x-ray was even auctioned off on eBay to raise much needed funding for our ongoing clinical care.

Now, as we celebrate 40 years of rescue and rehabilitation, another curious x-ray is upon us – this time with an American Coot in care for a fractured clavicle whose x-ray reveals an eerie shape much like a human skull. While The San Francisco Chronicle called the image in the Duck’s x-ray “facelike” and mentioned the prominent brows that made the eye-like gaps so reminiscent of the cliché alien, the Coot’s x-ray is even more strikingly archetypal.

The x-ray of a Mallard Duck that seemed to contain the face of an alien







In any hospital environment, animal or human, the smiles that come from unusual events can be therapeutic. Still, our focus remains on ensuring that the Coot has the best chance for recovery and return to its home in the wild. This injured Coot’s future looks bright, with calcium supplementation, all the food it can eat, and a safe place to heal. The bizarre skull shape in its stomach is likely made up of grain.

However, many of the objects our wildlife rehabilitators find in patients’ stomachs are much scarier than menacing aliens and lurking skeletons. From fishing hooks, bb pellets, and coins to plastics and other everyday trash, aquatic birds really do suffer from the ingestion of scary, dangerous objects.

The good news is that it is in our power to help. Please make it a point to keep beaches and other animal habitats clean for aquatic birds, seabirds and other wildlife – Let’s leave the scary stuff to the spooks!

This juvenile Snowy Egret swallowed a hook larger than its stomach.



February 18, 2012

Band together

Reporting Blue-banded Pelicans Matters

International Bird Rescue puts numbered U.S. Fish and Wildlife stainless steel bands on the legs of all of the birds we release so that they can be identified in the future and we can evaluate their survivability. We get some return visits and re-sightings of these birds, but most live in remote regions and are never seen again. To increase the chance of recognizing our former Brown Pelican patients in the wild, we have been using an additional band made of blue plastic with large white letters and numbers, which are much easier to read.

Last week, while surveying for banded birds on the outer breakwaters of the Los Angeles Harbor, we spotted about 1,000 Brown Pelicans. 20 or so had only the metal bands, which were unreadable from the boat. However, we spotted 7 of the blue bands and were able to read 6. Two of these birds, A65 and A91, were released on February 17, 2009 in San Francisco Bay. They had been part of a large Pelican crisis during which we had hundreds of soaking wet, cold and emaciated Pelicans come to our Center. Now, three years later, they are alive and well in Los Angeles. Two of the other blue-banded Pelicans were released last year, after being treated for health issues at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Center, and the remaining two were released within the past few months.

That same day, another one of our blue-banded patients, Pelican M32, was spotted at the Yolo County Landfill near Davis, California. This inland location was certainly an unusual place for a Brown Pelican to roost. M32 was first discovered in November 2011 in another strange circumstance; disoriented on Petaluma’s stretch of Lakeville Highway, she was only about 6 months old upon rescue. Young birds that land on roads like this rarely survive, but she was caught in time and released by International Bird Rescue at Moss Landing after 10 days. Now, two and half months later, this Pelican is 120 miles northeast of her release site.

So, what does this tell us? Well, Pelican M32, a first-year bird when she was originally brought to the Center, has turned up in two different abnormal Brown Pelican habitats. The 120 miles between these two sites and the nearly three months Pelican M32 has survived on her own demonstrate that she is clearly able to feed herself and fly long distances. On the other hand, this bird continues to strangely gravitate inland; Pelican M32 may not be a beggar at the local pier, but she is showing signs of disorientation.

Last year alone we released 363 rehabilitated Brown Pelicans. We put a lot of time, money and care into these amazing birds. We want to know where they go and if they survive, because the information gained from bird sightings helps us to refine our rehabilitation protocols. We will share more blue-banded Brown Pelican adventures as we receive more data.

If you see a blue-banded Pelican please report it to us! From the scene of the sighting, you can call the band number, location, and condition of the bird to 707.207.0380 ext. 7. There is also a “Report Blue-Banded Pelicans” form available online under “Found a Bird” at www.Bird-Rescue.org.

Thank you for supporting this important project!

Jay Holcomb
Director Emeritus
International Bird Rescue

A blue-banded Pelican in care at International Bird Rescue

You can help
International Bird Rescue by
reporting blue-banded Pelicans

Pelican M32 as spotted by Steve Hampton


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your support to do all that we do.

Please consider making a gift today.


A Brown Booby relaxes along the breakwater at the Port of Los Angeles. Photo by Jay Holcomb

Brown Booby Sighting!

While surveying for blue-banded Brown Pelicans in Los Angeles last week we spotted a Brown Booby. While Brown Boobies occasionally show up in this area, they are considered sub-tropical birds and are rare to California. Boobies eat by plunge feeding, much like Pelicans; the difference is that Pelicans will dive into a school of small fish and scoop them up with their pouches, while Boobies target a single fish, make a powerful and impressive plunge, grab their fish and gulp it down. Lots of Pelicans were feeding on schooling fish that day, but the Booby was just sitting on the rocks in a group of cormorants and gulls, preening and relaxing – we hope with a full belly.

February 13, 2012

Adopt – in the name of love

On Valentine’s Day we are reminded to cherish love and wish those we care about lifetimes of happiness. At International Bird Rescue we are dedicated to giving sick and injured aquatic birds second chances for long and happy lives – every bird matters! 

Symbolically adopting an aquatic bird and helping International Bird Rescue give expert and compassionate care to each of its patients is now as easy as click, click, click.

  • Choose to adopt a Pelican, Heron, Loon, Murre or Duckling
  • Customize your certificate with your name
    or the name of a loved one
  • Print your certificate as a keepsake,
    or send it to that special person in your life

Let these magnificent birds into your heart, and watch your love soar!

Happy Valentine’s Day,
from our hearts to yours,

International Bird Rescue