Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for July 2012

July 28, 2012

An Update on Pelican Rescue

We wanted to update everyone on our ongoing pelican rescue efforts this summer. California Brown Pelicans have been pouring into International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Centers since the beginning of July, and even with joyful releases back into the wild, our aviaries are still packed with 256 Pelicans.

When young Pelicans first attempt to hunt for themselves and have difficulty finding food, their weakness can give way to a host of secondary injuries, and sometimes these natural challenges are compounded by increased human-caused threats during summer months. The Pelicans are coming in weak, thin, disoriented and sometimes tangled in fishing tackle, pierced with fishing hooks and even covered with fish oil from fish cleaning stations in harbors along the west coast.

At International Bird Rescue, struggling Brown Pelicans are evaluated upon intake, tubed with fluids to rehydrate them, given plenty of fish, and kept indoors until they are deemed strong enough to graduate to the outside pelican aviary. They then spend a lot of time eating and socializing with other Pelicans. In order to be released they must be of normal weight, have normal blood values, have perfect waterproofing and pass a flight test of 90 feet, from high perch to perch. The average rehabilitation time for non-injured young pelicans is about 10 days. Injured birds follow a similar routine with the addition of antibiotics and sometimes splints, wraps, physical therapy or surgery, and thus a longer stay at our centers. In essence, we are giving all of these inexperienced young Pelicans a second chance, and then it is up to them.

The great news is that Brown Pelicans often do very well after rehabilitation, and we can’t thank you enough for helping to offer these birds the opportunity to live on and rejoin the California Brown Pelican population. We also want to thank the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund for supporting our efforts with an emergency grant to our centers.

The majority of donations though have come from concerned citizens like you who made the decision to make a difference. In fact, inspired by International Bird Rescue’s dramatically increased activity and expenses during this influx of Brown Pelican patients, two Bird Rescue supporters have offered gifts totaling $6,000 that will match any new donations dollar for dollar during this crisis, helping us keep up with the hundreds of pounds of feeds we go through every day.

How do we know that all of this pays off? Each bird that is released from International Bird Rescue is federally banded, but even with binoculars metal band numbers can be difficult to read, so in 2009 we began adding larger numbered bands made of blue plastic to the other leg of each rehabilitated Brown Pelican. As reports of the banded birds come in we are able to track what happens to rehabilitated birds after they are released. Re-sighted Pelicans, such as K15 who has been spotted on three occasions (as recently as February 2012) since his July 2011 release, illustrate rehabilitation success and help with research to improve the care we offer these special birds.

International Bird Rescue’s goal is to restore these young Pelicans to health so that they can have a second chance to become thriving adults who can contribute to the future of Brown Pelicans in California. As our rescue efforts continue we’ll do our best to keep you abreast of how we’re doing, with thanks to you.



July 27, 2012

Bird Rescue News Round-Up, July 27

In this week’s round-up: Starving California Brown Pelicans showing up inland as they hunt for food, Black-browed Albatrosses on the rebound in the Falklands, and the anti-aging mysteries of Brünnich’s Guillemots. [Black-browed Albatross photo by W. Ryan Holliday]

—California Brown Pelicans venture inland in what appears to be an unprecedented occurrence — and International Bird Rescue’s Jay Holcomb explains why that may be the case. (Read more on our blog about this summer’s influx of starving pelicans, and what you can do to help.) [Daily Democrat]

—Diving birds live long, die fast: In a study of Brünnich’s Guillemots released earlier this month, researchers at the University of Manitoba find that the species’ high metabolisms and frequent diving for food should produce oxidative stress, which harms the body’s detoxifying processes. In humans, oxidative stress can contribute to diseases such as atherosclerosis and Parkinson’s.

But Brünnich’s Guillemots seem to buck the trend, says Kyle Elliott, lead author of the study. “Not only do these birds live very long, but they maintain their energetic lifestyle in a very extreme environment into old age.” [Science Daily]

—At California’s Pescadero State Beach, Western Snowy Plovers fledge for the first time in more than 30 years. A small wader listed as a threatened species, the Snowy Plover has been at the center of habitat protection efforts along the Pacific coast, increasing the total species number to 3,600 adults in 2010, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. [Oakland Tribune]

—Also on the rise? The endangered Black-browed Albatross in the Falkland Islands of the South Atlantic, according to RSPB/BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme. [Birdwatch]

—Researchers at the University of Cape Town’s Animal Demography Unit track Lewis, Goldie and other juvenile African Penguins fitted with Platform Transmitter Terminal (PTT) tracking devices. Penguin Watch reports: “These birds are the ninth, tenth and eleventh juveniles to be equipped with PTTs as part of the Chick Bolstering Project’s efforts to understand the dispersal behaviour of juvenile African penguins and the broader efforts to understand how these birds use their ocean habitat when not breeding.” The three latest penguins in the study were reared by The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, or SANCCOB. [Penguin Watch]

—Lawmakers in Northern Ireland approve two critical coastlines as Special Areas of Conservation. [BBC News]

—Interpol arrests an astounding 4,000 people across 32 countries in a sting operation to combat the world’s illegal bird trade. [National Geographic]

—Bloomberg News takes a look at Wild Bird Fund’s newly opened rehabilitation center on New York’s Upper West Side.  [Bloomberg News]

—In the Sea of Cortez, Brown Pelicans and Devil Rays, flying side by side. [Discovery News]

July 20, 2012

Bird Rescue News Round-Up, July 20

In this week’s round-up: Migratory duck populations hit record numbers, NatGeo announces winners in its inaugural/international bird photo contest, and Brown Pelicans suffer fish oil contamination en masse in Northern California.

—A haunting shot of a Pelagic Cormorant fishing off the coast of Baja California wins National Geographic’s inaugural World Bird Photo Contest. “It’s strange that in a bird-photography contest the winner is one where the bird is 2, maybe 3, percent of the picture, but … it’s as artistic as any picture can be,” Josep del Hoyo, a judge in the competition, remarked of the winning photograph by Cristobal Serrano (photo above; see more photos here). [National Geographic]

—The wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic reports on exotic bird “laundering” in the Solomon Islands, where an estimated 54,000 birds, many of them endangered, were exported from the country between 2000 and 2010. Officials are skeptical of claims that the birds exported originated in captive breeding facilities: “Declaring exported birds as being captive-bred has all the hallmarks of a scam to get around international trade regulations,” said Chris Shepherd, Traffic’s deputy director for Southeast Asia.” [BBC News]

—Migratory duck populations have reached an all-time high, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey released last week. Officials reported an estimated 48.6 million breeding ducks in the U.S. and Canada, a 7% year-over-year increase and a 43% increase over the historical average dating back to 1955. [San Jose Mercury News]

—Downtown Oklahoma City faces an influx of migrating Purple Martins, and officials contend that abatement efforts to keep them out of the area are in line with the Migratory Bird Act. [The Oklahoman]

—Brown Pelicans suffer fish oil contamination in California’s Humboldt and Del Norte counties. [Redwood Times]

—Biologists in Brazil cite natural causes in the deaths of 745 penguins found along the Sao Paulo coast. [CNN]

—In the UK, a “one-in-a-million” white house sparrow: This fledgling has leucism, a condition marked by reduction in skin pigmentation. [STV]

—Environmental groups sue the state of Oregon, claiming that approved logging has imperiled the Marbled Murrelet in violation of the Endangered Species Act. [Audobon Magazine]

July 16, 2012

The Perils of Plastics: Two New Perspectives on Seabirds and Marine Pollution

It’s a sight that one perhaps wishes to have never seen, and certainly never forgets: the carcass of a Laysan Albatross, its stomach filled with disposable lighters, chocolate wrappers, water bottle caps and other plastic debris amassed throughout the world’s oceans.

“I had to laugh out loud to keep from crying,” Victoria Sloan Jordan, an associate producer of the in-production documentary Midway, says of seeing albatross chick remains filled with plastic on the remote Midway Atoll, where more than one million albatrosses breed annually. “It was so uncomfortable and unreal. The crazy colors of plastic emerging out of the neutral tones of brown and black and white of the birds. I was hit with nausea at the idea of this bird being filled, month after month, with hard plastic, its parent having no idea it wasn’t providing nourishing food.”

Plastic ingestion by seabirds is a confounding environmental problem, whether for the albatrosses on Midway — located 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu and within the North Pacific Central Gyre, known for its heavy concentration of man-made marine debris — or for species elsewhere on the planet. Mistaken for prey, the plastic is swallowed and sometimes fed to chicks. Over the past decade, several International Bird Rescue staff and volunteers have had the privilege to visit Midway on cleanup missions as well as an annual albatross count conducted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (click here for photos of executive director emeritus Jay Holcomb’s 2004 trip).

Two recent projects — one scientific, the other journalistic — have caught our attention for their thoughtful approaches to awareness-building on the issue. One, mentioned above, is Midway, a documentary by filmmaker Chris Jordan (Victoria’s husband). It’s currently in the final stages of shooting, though Jordan’s team has already returned with stunning footage of the albatross population as seen in the film’s trailer below. Jordan, a Seattle-based artist whose subjects have ranged from Hurricane Katrina to mass consumption in American culture, is seeking funds for completion of the film via Kickstarter (click here to learn more about the project).

Chris Jordan filming the documentary Midway. Production continues through 2012.

The primary challenge in the project has been filming in high heat and humidity, lashing rain and constant wind. “But the albatross themselves are quite courteous,” Victoria says. “The Laysan Albatrosses in particular are quite calm and allowed the camera very close to them and their nests. It’s pure magic to be able to see such exquisite, high-resolution footage of the birds close up, their beauty and regal nature, to see with such intimacy the hatching of a chick, hear its peeps in the egg, as if you were in the nest.”

Another take on this problem comes in the form of an intriguing new study out of the University of British Columbia’s Department of Zoology and published in Marine Pollution Bulletin.

A research team led by UBC graduate student Stephanie Avery-Gomm examined the stomach contents of 67 Northern Fulmar carcasses — juveniles and adults, males and females — that were collected on the shores of British Columbia, Oregon and Washington.

Stephanie Avery-Gomm (Photo by Dan Turner)

The Northern Fulmar, a member of the family Procellariidae that includes albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, is an apt “biomonitor” for measuring plastic debris in part because it feeds exclusively at sea: Avery-Gomm says the contents of a fulmar stomach provide a snapshot of small-sized plastic pollution in the eastern North Pacific. Fulmars have also been used as biomonitors in marine pollution research for decades elsewhere in the world, namely in the North Sea. “They’re like a canary in the coal mine, in that they can help us monitor trends in plastic pollution — the composition of plastic in the marine environment, as well as the amount that they ingest,” Avery-Gomm says.

A staggering 92.5% of the fulmars in the study had plastic in their stomachs — detritus from fishing line and Styrofoam to bottle caps and shards of indeterminate origin. “I expected plastic, but not as much as I found,” Avery-Gomm says. “It was quite shocking.”

Bird Studies Canada, the University of Puget Sound and the Wildlife Center of the North Coast assisted in collection and processing for the project.

References: Avery-Gomm, S., et al. Northern fulmars as biological monitors of trends of plastic pollution in the eastern North Pacific. Mar. Pollut. Bull. (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.04.017

Albatross photo by Chris Jordan.

July 11, 2012

Starving Brown Pelicans Flock to Beaches, Concern Beachgoers, Overwhelm Rescue Centers

California Brown Pelicans in the Aviary at International Bird RescueAs summer kicks into gear on California beaches, record numbers of young, starving California Brown Pelicans are being reported by concerned beachgoers and threatening to overwhelm rescue centers up and down the coast. International Bird Rescue is one of the groups most significantly impacted.

These fledgling birds, part of a thriving Pelican population that has rebounded in recent years, are thought to be part of a natural chick mortality event. But as people, as well as Pelicans, flock to beaches and coastlines, the sight of so many struggling young Pelicans has heightened public concern. Meanwhile International Bird Rescue and other organizations are doing their best to stretch limited resources to care for the masses of Pelicans in need of help. The public is now being asked to support the organizations that shoulder the cost of these rescue efforts.

California Brown Pelicans, an iconic coastal species in the Golden State, have experienced rapidly increasing breeding success in recent years following exposure to DDT in the early 1970’s, which put them on the endangered species list. Every year up to 80 percent of newly hatched birds fail to make it on their own after leaving the nest around May. Once their parents stop feeding them, Pelican fledglings must learn to hunt for themselves in a very short period of time, but when they aren’t initially successful, and grow desperately hungry, many exhibit unusual behavior like begging humans for food or foraging in unlikely locations far from the ocean – as we are seeing now. With a marked increase in breeding in recent years these human interactions are happening on a much larger scale, sometimes resulting in injuries to the birds such as fishing-line entanglement.

“While mortality of fledgling Pelicans is a normal occurrence, what is not normal is for people to be seeing these birds dying in parking lots, on public piers and on beaches,” says Julie Skoglund, Manager of International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Center. “These birds do need to learn to fish for themselves, but if they are severely debilitated we would much rather the public reports them so they can be evaluated at a rehabilitation center and, if possible, be treated for their problems and given a second chance at making it on their own,” adds Rebecca Duerr, DVM, International Bird Rescue’s veterinarian.

International Bird Rescue, which runs dedicated aquatic bird rescue centers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, currently has over 150 Brown Pelicans in care, with new arrivals daily. Each Pelican consumes half its bodyweight in food each day: about 4-5 pounds of fish per bird per day – at up to $2.05 a pound. With rehabilitation periods of several weeks to a month or more, the expenses – not including medicines and surgeries – multiply quickly. International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center alone is spending nearly $700 a day on fish. Outside of public support, the nonprofit has no other resources to pay for the care of the Pelicans and is actively seeking support from the public to continue their rescue efforts.

How the Public Can Help
Members of the public who are concerned about a Pelican in distress are asked to contact their local Animal Control or WildRescue’s Statewide toll-free hotline number 866-WILD-911.

International Bird Rescue is accepting donations to support its ongoing rescue efforts, including a Pelican Partner program through which people are given the unique opportunity to help release a Pelican patient back into the wild. Information on becoming a Pelican Partner, other ways to give, and how to volunteer at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles or San Francisco Bay Centers can be found under “Get Involved” at birdrescue.org.

July 9, 2012

Bird Rescue News Round-Up, July 9

In this week’s round-up: sobering factoids on the Pacific Plastic Gyre, American White Pelicans on the rebound in North Dakota, Magellanic Penguins turn up on Ipanema Beach, and Congress passes a bill to help restore the Gulf, two years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster:

—The volume of plastic debris in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre has increased by 100 times over the past 40 years — and nine other sobering facts you should know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. [Greenbang]

—This problem is also slouching towards shore: In a new study published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, a research team led by University of British Columbia grad student Stephanie Avery-Gomm examined the stomach contents of beached Northern Fulmars. Their findings? A staggering 92.5% of the birds had ingested plastics, from Styrofoam to candy wrappers. “Like the canary in the coal mine, Northern Fulmars are sentinels of plastic pollution in our oceans,” Avery-Gomm told Science Daily. “Their stomach content provides a ‘snapshot’ sample of plastic pollution from a large area of the northern Pacific Ocean.” [Science Daily]

—And: Using Midway Island’s embattled Laysan Albatross population as a case study, a team of filmmakers is nearing their $100,000 fundraising goal to create a documentary on the plastic conundrum. [Kickstarter]

—American White Pelicans make a triumphant return in North Dakota’s Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge. [CBS News]

—But to the north, researchers find that nearly half of Canada’s 451 native bird species have seen their populations decline since 1970, with Horned Grebes and Northern Pintails falling in number by a staggering 70%. [St. Albert Gazette]

—In Brazil, young Magellenic Penguins continue to go astray of their normal migratory route, ending up on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and often in poor health. BBC News reports that the Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA will transport many rehabbed animals back to their natural habitats further south. [BBC News]

—President Obama has signed into law an omnibus transportation bill that includes the RESTORE Act, which mandates that 80% of fines to be paid by BP as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster will be distributed among the five Gulf states for coastal restoration. However, during last-minute wrangling Congress scrapped a provision to create a national endowment for coastal habitats. [The Advocate]

Penguin photo by Christian Ostrosky (Ostrosky Photos on Flickr Creative Commons)

July 6, 2012

A Tern Up for the Books

A Tale of Rehabilitation Success for Caspian Tern Chick Rescued from Long Beach Fireworks Bird Tragedy

Last week we received bittersweet news from our colleagues at Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, California. They had received an injured Caspian Tern wearing a silver leg band. When we checked out the band number we realized that this bird was one of the Tern chicks that we had rescued and rehabilitated after its colony was destroyed in Long Beach Harbor in June 2006. This news was bitter because the bird’s injuries were so severe that it had to be euthanized, but the sweetness of this story overrides the loss, as we knew that this bird had experienced six years of freedom against some real odds.

International Bird Rescue first learned about the Tern massacre on June 28, 2006 when staff at our Los Angeles Center received a call from the lifeguards in Long Beach that a bunch of baby birds – both dead and alive – were washing up on shore in an area where people were enjoying the beach. They wondered if we could we come and get them. This sounded suspicious, so four of our staff went to the site only to discover that the beach was littered with hundreds of dead baby Terns ranging from tiny, few-day-old chicks to older, yet still unflighted young Terns. Our staff has been trained during oil spills to pick up live and dead birds, as the dead ones are important evidence, and considering that something fishy seemed to be going on, our staff decided to collect all of them.

The next day we received another call from the lifeguards that more chicks were washing up, and an additional call from Dan Salas, president of Harbor Breeze Cruises in Long Beach. He had been taking his passengers to two barges in the middle of the Harbor to see the Tern colonies that were thriving on top of these perfect nesting spots for Terns who had lost their natural nesting habitat due to the growth of the Harbor. Salas had watched as a cleaning crew steam washed the second barge deck clean, hosing all of the birds off into the water – clearly oblivious to the fact that these were living and thriving animals, let alone vulnerable babies.

The mystery was solved, and our staff picked up another 200 or so dead baby Terns and a few more survivors. An entire year’s population of baby Caspian and Elegant Terns were wiped out so that the barges could be clean and ready to set off fireworks for the upcoming Fourth of July celebrations! The case was handed over to California Fish & Game for investigation, and International Bird Rescue held the evidence, more than 400 dead and only 25 live Terns, at our Center.

Our focus was on the live Tern chicks. The live birds numbered 10 Elegant and 15 Caspian Terns. We had rehabilitated baby Terns before, but it had been a challenge to get them to eat on their own, without parents. They all came around fast and did well self-feeding from bowls, but the next step was to teach them to catch live fish on their own. Once the chicks began to fly and exercise their wings they were moved into our smaller Pelican flight aviary so that they could exercise, plunge feed and hopefully gain weight. This aviary is about 35 feet long and 25 feet high with a deep pool taking up two thirds of the cage. Live minnows and other small fish were put in shallow pans and in the deep pool.

The Elegant Terns immediately went after the live fish, plunging, capturing, and devouring them. This was an encouraging sign and it was hard to keep them satisfied. The Caspian Terns, however, sat there and begged, squawked and occasionally went to their feed bowl to eat dead fish. Like spoiled children they did not want to do much. They did like chasing the live fish in shallow dishes, but they would not fly and plunge like the Elegant Terns. This was a real source of frustration for us, but we kept at it.

A few weeks later, in August 2006, it came time to release the Terns. All birds were banded with silver metal bands on release, and the Caspian Terns were given an additional plastic band courtesy of Tern biologist, Kathy Molina. Without their parents Tern chicks only have a few short days to figure out how to catch fish on their own or they will starve. Therefore, they all had to be released in the perfect place that would give them the best chances of survival. The Elegant Terns were released in the Harbor and they took off with the wild Elegant Terns who came to meet them. In order to give the less self-reliant Caspian Terns the best chance of survival we released them in one of the many Caspian Tern colonies at the Salton Sea, where there were chicks their size and waters teaming with small fish. That was the end of it; some were sighted within the days that followed, but they left the colony soon after like normal Tern chicks do.

The Caspian Tern that was found last week with severe injuries was one of these same chicks! An against-all-odds survivor of the 2006 Tern massacre, this bird had enjoyed six years of life and freedom!  We have since learned that this bird had been sighted twice at Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach, first on May 16, 2009 and then on April 27, 2010.

The significance of this discovery is monumental to us and important to wildlife rehabilitation. This is the sweet part of the story. There are many hardcore folks who think we are off our rockers to care for birds like these baby Terns, since their chances for survival are less than what they would be in the wild. We have even been told that we should kill babies like these – but we don’t agree. We understand that we are not Tern parents and that in it self is a limitation, but we also know that instinct has a lot to do with survival, so providing these birds with every opportunity to forage and act like Terns goes a long way. From tiny Brown Pelican chicks to Snowy Egrets who go on to mate and produce healthy young, we have proven the power of customized rehabilitation with many, many species, and this Tern was no exception.

International Bird Rescue’s tagline “every bird matters” really means that every life matters, and these 25 baby Terns deserved a chance to have the life that they were born into just as much as the 400 birds that people had killed. We have endeavored to hone our rehabilitation skills over the years so that birds like these can have a second chance. Why not try to give it to them? We are proud that this has paid off in a myriad of ways with many species, and we always do our best to advance our understanding and skills.

In closing, I want to acknowledge our staff for not only dealing professionally with a very difficult situation, collecting evidence that could not be disputed, but for having the strength to witness and endure this horrific event. This was hard on them, to say the least, but they were gallant and just did it. The company that hired the cleaning crew was fined $15,000 for killing 400 Terns. I pushed as hard as I could to secure a portion of that fine to offset the expenses of collecting and storing the evidence and costs of raising the baby Terns, but all the money from the fines was given to a well-known national wildlife protection organization that had nothing to do with this situation and that likely did not even know about it. We did not receive a penny or even an acknowledgment – but we got something better.

International Bird Rescue now has proof that our efforts paid off. If one Tern made it, then it is likely that others made it as well. We have found a bird, Caspian Tern band number 925-76178, who endured being hosed off a barge, saved from drowning, raised by humans, driven to the desert, double banded and turned loose to fend for itself at about two months of age. This bird went on to live for six years! Don’t forget the story of this bird, or the people who gave it a second chance.

July 3, 2012

We Salute You for Giving Orphaned Chicks Their Independence

Watch video of Growing Pied-billed Grebe chicks

Thank you for
helping us be there
for every bird that
needs us.

It takes an incredible
amount of work to raise orphans like these.

Your gifts mean
a great deal to us, but
even more to them.

When you make your gift
repeat monthly,
you help us save lives
whenever there are
birds in need.

Dear Friends,

Over the past month as part of our summer campaign we have shared a selection of stories with you from our rescue centers, highlighting some of the lifesaving work that you so generously make happen – day in and day out. On behalf of our staff and volunteers and most importantly the birds we care for, thank you so, so much.

On the eve of Independence Day it seemed particularly fitting to wrap up this fundraising month and to say thank you for your support by sharing some footage of some recent baby bird patients at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center. Our center has been overrun with orphaned birds this year, and this is the story of three Pied-billed Grebe chicks – some of the most needy orphan birds we care for – who are finding their own independence, thanks to you.

Rescued at the edge of a pond without parents, all three chicks were in desperate states – one was soaking wet and unresponsive. When they first arrived, we carried them each hour from an incubator to a dish tub, to hand feed them smelt and mealworms with forceps. After a week, they were self-feeding and were moved to a new enclosure with floating food dishes so that they could decide when they wanted to swim and eat. Grebes spend their lives on water, and serious attention was paid to providing adequate exposure without letting them get too wet, cold or tired. In the wild, Grebe chicks rest and warm up by riding on their parents’ backs, so in addition to a heat lamp they were given a feather duster to climb on and snuggle into.

It took years of experience with the challenges of this species to know just how to raise chicks like these. Examining previous cases, our veterinarian recommended a 7-day course of antibiotics for all three chicks. Now in a third phase of care, they are given both a room to themselves for privacy to reduce stress, and a regimen of daily visits to an outdoor pool where they can acclimate to the weather and build strong bones with vitamin D absorbed with the sun. Responding well and thriving, they are spending most of their time in the water and eating voraciously, but they still need to exhibit an ability to catch their own fish before they are fully ready for release.

On this Fourth of July holiday, we celebrate these and other successes and thank you for making it all possible. With your help we can give each of the birds we care for the very best chance to return to the wild and enjoy their freedom.

With much appreciation,

Paul Kelway Signature Photo

July 3, 2012

Rescued Seabirds Enjoyed Independence Despite Fireworks Foul Play

A Caspian Tern, a sensitive seabird rescued after hundreds of Tern chicks were tragically hosed off of two barges and into the Long Beach Harbor for a Fourth of July fireworks display in 2006, went on to survive in the wild for six years. The Tern, one of 25 birds that survived to be rescued and rehabilitated by International Bird Rescue, was released at the Salton Sea in August of 2006 and recently brought to Wetlands & Wildlife in Huntington Beach with a broken wing, highlighting the value of bird rehabilitation efforts in such situations.

“This news is bittersweet,” commented Jay Holcomb, Director Emeritus of International Bird Rescue. “The injured Tern had to be humanely euthanized due to the severity of its wing injury, but its discovery is extremely important evidence that the rehabilitation and rearing of sensitive species such as Terns works. We are delighted that this bird had six years of life in the wild and its survival implies that other chicks could have made it, as they all had the same opportunities. We hope it bred and reproduced, but we will never know.”

Hundreds of Caspian and Elegant Terns perished in the 2006 incident prompting an investigation by the California Department of Fish and Game. In 2008, the company involved was found guilty of cruelty and was given a $15,000 fine. However, International Bird Rescue never received any compensation for the cost of rehabilitating the chicks and collecting and storing the dead birds for evidence.

“The odds were against these chicks when we received them,” says Holcomb. “They were wet, cold and required care from their parents. We had to raise them in the best way we could, basically becoming their parents; helping them to learn to hunt for fish on their own. It was not an easy task!” The decision was made to release the Caspian Tern chicks at the Salton Sea where there are large Tern colonies and fish are plentiful to increase the odds for these young birds who had just learned to hunt for themselves.

“The long-term survival of this Tern illustrates the effectiveness of wildlife rehabilitation,” says Paul Kelway, Executive Director of International Bird Rescue. “Experienced wildlife rehabilitators can be an important last line of defense when animals face human-caused tragedies like the hundreds of dead and injured baby Terns littering the beach in 2006. We have a duty to respond in such situations and with the right knowledge and expertise it can be done successfully.”

International Bird Rescue is hoping for fun, safe and cruelty-free Fourth of July celebrations this year.


July 1, 2012

Photographers in Focus: Christopher Taylor

Welcome to International Bird Rescue’s latest edition of Photographers in Focus, our tribute to the wildlife photographers who further inspire our passion for bird rehabilitation.

In his 1922 memoir The Worst Journey in the World, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a survivor of the harrowing British Terra Nova Expedition, wrote of Antarctica’s icy brutality and eccentric wildlife in a travelogue unrivaled to this day. (If you’ve never read it, add it to your literature bucket list.)

And in seeing Los Angeles-based photographer Christopher Taylor’s images of Adélie Penguins, we were reminded of Cherry-Garrard’s observation of this species a century ago: They are extraordinarily like children, these little people of the Antarctic world, either like children or like old men, full of their own importance and late for dinner, in their black tail-coats and white shirt-fronts — and rather portly withal.

The founder of an Internet marketing firm in Santa Monica, Taylor recalls his own close encounter with Adélies during a trip to Paulet Island, located at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. “These guys were pretty curious, as you can see from the photo,” he says. “I ended up in the middle of a penguin highway. Imagine 100 of these guys running toward you. Most of them have never even seen a human before, so they’re not really sure how to react.”

Flightless Cormorant, Galápagos Islands

We’re drawn to Taylor’s work for its intimacy and sheer breadth: Take a look at the dizzying number of species he’s photographed. He’s traveled the globe, returning with fantastic images of endangered Sandpipers from Thailand, Flightless Cormorants from the Galápagos and Snowy Owls on Alaska’s North Slope.

But we also appreciate Taylor’s commitment to documenting birds in his own backyard — namely the Ballona Wetlands of Los Angeles. Those who have jogged, walked or biked through this 600-acre area in West L.A. may be surprised by its diversity of wildlife.

Unfortunately, many birds who call this area home (or who have stopped over as they migrate elsewhere on the planet) fall victim to the ills of urban encroachment. “I’ve encountered injured Western Grebes, oiled Pacific and Common Loons, and countless Gulls and Grebes, that are all tangled up in fishing line,” Taylor says. Taylor has routinely called Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue for help in collecting injured birds, who often in turn are transported to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Center for care.

We recently caught up with Taylor to learn some behind-the-scenes details of his fantastic shots.

Snowy Owl, Barrow, Alaska

How’d you get into wildlife photography?

My father was an avid birder and photographer, so I grew up with it from a very young age. I would travel to Texas, Alaska and all around the country with him photographing birds. I have always been really into the outdoors, so it was a hobby that I easily picked up. I didn’t start photographing birds until I was in my mid 20’s though. I kind of fell out of birding for a while during my teenage and college years but got back into it again when I bought my first DSLR camera. I spent a day photographing at Ballona and I was hooked all over again.

Ivory Gull, Pismo Beach, Calif.

Buff-Breasted Sandpiper, Ballona Creek, Los Angeles

Speaking of which, what’s been your greatest find while photographing at Ballona?

I think the most remarkable bird that I found and photographed was a Buff-Breasted Sandpiper. These guys breed in the high Arctic of northern Canada and Alaska, and typically migrate through the Central U.S. to and from their wintering grounds in South America. I was quite shocked to find one at Ballona Creek!

What cameras do you use?

I shoot with all Canon. I suppose it’s because my dad has always shot Canon and he was a CPS (Canon Professional) member so he was able to take my camera bodies and lenses in for cleaning and repair at no charge.

What region or country has posed the greatest challenge in your work?

I think Thailand was pretty difficult. When I first started, I would go with tour groups, but I prefer to do everything solo now. I don’t like being restricted to an itinerary and having to compromise with 10-plus other people in the group or vehicle. Being a photographer, I prefer to “stake out” areas for hours, if not the entire day. That said, I planned the Thailand trip myself. I had originally chartered an individual to take me out to specific locations, but he flaked on me when I arrived in Bangkok.

Spoon-Billed Sandpiper, Thailand

My top priority was the Spoon-Billed Sandpiper, so as soon as I got to the hotel, I rented a vehicle and drove to one of the prime locations to find them. The traffic, communication and signs all being in Thai proved to be quite challenging. I managed to get to the spot only to find hundreds of acres of water and salt pannes where the birds could be — usually only one or two birds among hundreds of thousands of shorebirds. It took me most of the day, but I finally found three of them. They were huddled together with a group of 1,000+ Red-Necked Stints, Broad-Billed Sandpipers, Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers, and Great Knots. I crawled on my belly through mud over 200 yards to get close enough to photograph them without scaring them. If I spooked one or two birds, the entire flock would have been gone in an instant. I was pretty stoked. I found my primary target bird within 24 hours of being in Thailand.

Check out more of Taylor’s work via his website, and follow him on Twitter! More information on print purchasing can be found here.

Adélie Penguins, Paulet Island, Antarctica. All images and video © Copyright 2006-2012 Christopher Taylor. All rights reserved.  

Adelie Penguins, Antarctica from Christopher Taylor on Vimeo.

If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this monthly feature, please e-mail Andrew Harmon at Andrew.Harmon@Bird-Rescue.org.