Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for August 2012

August 30, 2012

Seabirds and Plastic Bags Never Mix

California could soon become a leader in the fight against single-use plastic bags that have literally choked wildlife habitats throughout the world, as National Resources Defense Council staff attorney Leila Monroe noted in an op-ed today on HuffPost Green.

Each year, Californians use an estimated 12 billion such bags, which account for as much as 25% of the litter stream in state waterways such as the Los Angeles River.

A bill to ban single-use plastic bags — and support emerging businesses that produce biodegradable/reusable bags — is currently before a state senate committee. (Lawmakers adjourn on Friday.)

Plastic bags and seabirds never mix. Recently, International Bird Rescue volunteer videographer Jeff Robinson documented rehab work on a California Gull with the remnants of an “Open 24 Hours” plastic bag wrapped tightly around its neck.

A devoted volunteer retrieved the bird near our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center, where it is currently being treated. Watch its progress below:

Update: This Gull has been successfully rehabilitated and released. International Bird Rescue videographer Jeff Robinson has full video of its progress here.

August 29, 2012

Bringing Yosemite’s Pelican Back to Life

After a brush with starvation, this wayward Pelican made it from Yosemite to International Bird Rescue and back into the wild.

After she was rescued from a highway tunnel by park rangers in Yosemite National Park, a wayward female Brown Pelican was delivered to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center on July 18.

When she arrived at the center, we determined her gender and age by the length of her bill. She was an after-second-year female, and her bloodwork indicated that she was very anemic and had been eating little to nothing for some time. She was cold and emaciated, with a 2-3 inch laceration along her mandible, and another laceration near her right wrist. Her wounds were cleaned and dressed, and she was set up in the ICU, due to her low temperature. When she was offered food, she began eating immediately, and she was also given IV fluids and a nutrition tubing so that she would have easy calories to digest. Many birds with her blood values do not survive, but with this mix of nutrition she was able to gain 600 grams her first night, and was approved to move out of ICU the next day. The following day she continued to eat and look great, and was moved again — this time outside, to a heron and egret aviary.

Since she continued to do well outside, she was moved to the pelican aviary, with about 100 other Brown Pelicans. Unfortunately, her first night in this large, yet crowded, enclosure did not go well. In the morning we found that she was struggling to stand and that the juvenile birds had ripped open the wound on her wrist that had been stapled shut. She was moved back inside for some quiet time and to take care of her wrist.

By July 24, her weight was up 1,200 grams from intake, and she was having her wrist wound cleaned and dressed daily. She was living in one of the smaller outside enclosures and her pouch tear was quickly healing on it’s own. Soon her daily wrist wraps and antibiotics could be discontinued and by August 8 her wounds were completely healed and her bloodwork was greatly improved from intake.

A week later, she was flying expertly in the pelican aviary, had releasable blood values, and weighed 1,300 grams more than she did on intake. This once wayward Brown Pelican was ready for the release track, and able to leave us a few days later!


August 29, 2012

International Bird Rescue Seeks Leads in Animal Cruelty Case

International Bird Rescue is seeking information into a suspected animal cruelty case involving a juvenile Brown Pelican found with its wings extensively clipped.

The bird, which is currently in care at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center, was originally brought to Los Coches Veterinary Hospital in Soledad, Calif. with all of its primary and secondary feathers on both wings clipped. As a result, the bird was unable to fly, and therefore unable to hunt, and had become emaciated.

Anyone with information on the perpetrator or perpetrators behind this animal cruelty case should call US Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Offices in Burlingame, Calif. at 650.876.9078. The abuse of this animal is a federal offense. Brown Pelicans are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

“No one is sure as to how or why this happened,” said Jay Holcomb, director emeritus of International Bird Rescue. “This type of atrocity is not common, but when it happens, it’s shocking and demonstrates the disconnectedness that some people have with nature.”

At International Bird Rescue, wildlife rehabilitation staff has stabilized the Pelican’s health and has begun plucking the clipped feathers under anesthesia to encourage new feathers to come in.

“This is a four-month-old pelican. The feather clipping comes at a crucial time in the bird’s education, as it’s learning to fish and care for itself. Our goal is to get the bird back into the wild as soon as possible so that it can continue to develop its survival skills,” Holcomb said.

August 27, 2012

Bird Rescue News Round-Up, August 27

In this week’s roundup: the Hooded Warbler’s comeback in Canada, animal cruelty in Malibu, and shorebirds confronting hurricanes during fall migration.

—How will shorebirds on the cusp of fall migration be affected by Tropical Storm Isaac? [American Bird Conservancy]

—The New York Times interviews filmmaker Chris Jordan about his in-production documentary Midway on plastic ingestion by Laysan Albatrosses, who often mistake the refuse for prey and feed it to their young. (International Bird Rescue covered the upcoming doc earlier this summer, click here to read.) [NYT]

—A homeless man is charged with felony animal cruelty after strangling a pelican at the Malibu pier. [KTLA News]

—In Scotland, hundreds of racing pigeons go missing. [Telegraph]

—15 years ago, only 100 breeding pairs of Hooded Warblers (pictured right) were estimated to be found in Canada, making it one of the country’s most endangered birds. Now, the population has increased dramatically — for reasons that are unclear. [Postmedia News via Ottawa Citizen; photo by Glenn Lowson for Postmedia News]

—The Federal Aviation Administration falling behind on efforts to avert wildlife strikes by airplanes. [Bloomberg News]

—…I’ve Been Cheat-ed…: Male Rock Sparrows react to infidelity from a mate by increasing their song volume, according to research by the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Austria and the University of Copenhagen. [Science Daily]

—Video: WildRescue saves a hawk snagged high in a tree, probably for days. [WildRescue Blog]

Whimbrel migratory photo by Alex Lamoreaux, Center for Conservation Biology

August 27, 2012

The Release Files: 42 Birds Take Flight in 48 Hours

It’s been an extremely busy summer for both International Bird Rescue’s wildlife care centers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. But while Brown Pelicans have recently taken up most of the spotlight (as well as the fish), we continue to care for all types of aquatic birds — seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl, you name it.

This weekend, our L.A. center released 42 rehabilitated birds. Wildlife Center Manager Julie Skoglund reports the following species released within a 48-hour timespan:

—3 Green Herons (two of which take flight in above photo)

—6 Brandt’s Cormorants (shown below)

—12 Western Gulls

—1 Black-crowned Night Heron

—And … 20 Brown Pelicans

August 27, 2012

5 Reasons to Become a Pelican Partner from Mark Rovner, CEO, Sea Change Strategies

Summer 2012 has been a season of long hours and hard work at International Bird Rescue, which has treated hundreds of injured or starving young California Brown Pelicans and given them a second chance in the wild.

More than ever, we depend on all of our supporters to make a difference for these animals. Your donation helps us feed and care for thousands of injured wild birds 365 days a year.

Mark Rovner, founder and CEO of Sea Change Strategies (and pictured here, underwater, in Little Cayman), recently shared with us why he decided to become a Pelican Partner:

1. “Because watching a rescued pelican take flight to rejoin the wild brings tears to your eyes.”


2. “Because International Bird Rescue is always there 24/7, and the work they do is amazing.”


3. “Because thousands of injured and oiled birds turn up at International Bird Rescue’s doorstep each year. And they accept each and every one.”


4. “Because the tireless staff pours their heart and soul into their work. They are true heroes and deserve my support.”


5. “Because every bird matters, and being a Pelican Partner lets me put my money where my mouth is.”


Join Mark and donate today. And learn more about Pelican Partner perks here.

August 24, 2012

Video: In Avila Beach, Pelican Paradise (with Whale Cameo)

Sometimes you just have to be in the right place, at the right time.

Vincent Shay, co-owner of SLO Coast Kayaks in Avila Beach, Calif., recently shot video of this remarkable scene: a Humpback Whale surrounded by hundreds of California Brown Pelicans.

Shay recently wrote us to give the backstory:

“As the owners of SLO Coast Kayaks, [fellow co-owner] Emily and I were asked to give an interview for the local KSBY TV station about the whale activity going on in the Harbor. As we were setting up for the interview, I noticed that many kayakers, boaters and some of our rentals were actually pursuing the whale, getting a bit too close. I let the interviewer know that I didn’t feel comfortable about how close these people were getting (we do have the Marine Mammal Protection Act!) so I paddled out and informed all that if we just sat in one place, the whale would probably come to us.  And it happened. We did not pursue or cut off the whale and me and the other guy had a great show! A great day that I will never forget!”

See the extended video at Global Maritimes.

August 23, 2012

International Bird Rescue on Strangled Malibu Pelican

International Bird Rescue has learned that a Los Angeles man was arrested yesterday evening for strangling a pelican in Malibu.

As a wildlife rehabilitator that has been caring for pelicans for more than 40 years, International Bird Rescue’s Director Emeritus Jay Holcomb notes, “It’s hard to understand why anyone would hurt a beautiful young Brown Pelican.”

Unfortunately this is not the first time that the organization has witnessed the effects of cruelty against this species. Holcomb explains, “In the past we have seen pelicans with beaks cut off, wings intentionally broken and feathers mangled by fisherman who care only about taking from nature and not preserving it.”

This summer, record numbers of juvenile Brown Pelicans are struggling to hunt and grounding themselves on beaches up and down the coast. Some are tangled in fishing tackle, pierced with fishing hooks, suffering from broken bones, or covered with fish oil from fish cleaning stations in harbors along the West Coast. With over 400 California Brown Pelicans in care over the past month, International Bird Rescue is doing everything possible to help this once endangered bird survive and thrive.

August 23, 2012

After Nine Months of Rehabilitation, Pelican S-62 Returns to Flight

Following a severe wing injury late last year, California Brown Pelican S-62’s body started to fail him. His system had over-compensated for a fracture to his ulna by developing a massive bony callus that grew to encase his adjacent radius, fusing the two bones together (a condition known as synostosis) and rendering him flightless. Just like in a human forearm, where the radius and ulna need to be fully mobile for us to move our hands through the full range of motion, the bones in birds’ wings must be independently mobile in order for them to fly. Without human intervention, Pelican S-62 would die.

Here’s how we gave him a second chance:
Upon intake examination at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Center, it was clear that S-62’s injury had taken a serious toll on his health, leaving him wounded and battered, with a drooping wing, poor nutrition, and anemia. Once he was stabilized and strong enough to withstand surgery, Bird Rescue’s veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr knew that she would have to go beyond removing the Pelican’s overgrown callus to separate the bones. She packed the space created between the bones with fatty tissue harvested from the bird’s abdomen to prevent the growth from forming again. Not long after surgery, S-62 began stretching his magnificent 7-foot wingspan and showing interest in flapping. With the advice of a human physical therapist that specializes in hands, we initiated an intensive physical therapy plan of wing extensions and range-of-motion exercises on a twice-daily basis. Our staff and volunteers continued this therapy for many months while S-62 made slow, steady progress.

Months of hard work by a dedicated team have finally paid off for this one bird. We are extremely happy to report that we released Brown Pelican S-62 on August 18 at White Point in Palos Verdes. He flew strongly from the shore out past an offshore reef to settle on the water for a few minutes, then a pair of juvenile pelicans flew by and he launched off the water to join them. The three birds flew off around the corner of the cliffs together. The prolonged hard work of our staff and volunteers paid off handsomely with the release of this beautiful adult bird.

International Bird Rescue would like to invite you to support the recoveries of California Brown Pelicans and other aquatic bird and seabird species through our Pelican Partner and Bird Adoption programs. As a Pelican Partner, you help give injured birds like S-62 a second chance. And you can be there when they are released back into the wild — a truly unforgettable moment.

Every bird matters.

August 21, 2012

Photographers in Focus: Matt Bryant, Shorebird Lover

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.


You needn’t be Mattias Klum to score a terrific seabird photograph. At International Bird Rescue, we’re often as drawn to hobby shots by amateurs who love some of the many species we often rehabilitate as we are to the work of today’s hottest wildlife photographers.

While recently perusing Flickr, we came across some beautiful frames by Matt Bryant (pictured above, with son, Jordan), a Florida native who works for Liberty Mutual Insurance and has a lifelong passion for shorebirds, from the Marbled Godwit to the endangered Piping Plover.

But one species is a particular muse for Bryant: the Black Skimmer, the largest of three Skimmer species. American ornithologist Robert Cushman Murphy, as Audubon notes, once described the Black Skimmer as “unworldly…aerial beagles hot on the scent of aerial rabbits.”

Bryant also raves. “There is nothing else like them in the world,” he says of Skimmers on Indian Shores near St. Petersburg, Fla. “They fly so gracefully and with great speed. It’s so much fun watching them skim across the water. They’re the only bird on the planet with a longer lower mandible, as they drag it in the water zig-zagging back and forth for fish.”

Bryant recently took a few minutes out of his day to tell us more about his passion for our small ocean beach companions (as well as magnificent waterfowl):

Willet, Sunset Beach, Fla.

Have you always been interested in shorebirds? What draws you to them?

Shorebirds have always been interesting to me but not until recently have I discovered how fragile they can be. When I was younger, I never realized harm could be caused when chasing a flock of birds making them fly. Now I find myself yelling at others not to do so and educating my own children to have respect for the wildlife. The beach belongs to them, and I’m just borrowing it. I’m drawn to the athleticism of these animals — it’s truly amazing how they can target a fish and pinpoint its direction, then make adjustments within milliseconds to catch it.

Black-Necked Stilt, Florida

What camera do you use?

I shoot with a Nikon. I’m thankful my wife bought me my first DLSR camera, which has allowed me to reconnect with nature in a way I never have before. We are each others’ eyes and ears when out birding.

Black Skimmer, Indian Shores, Fla.

What’s your favorite shot of all time?

My favorite is of the newly hatched Black Skimmer babies. We missed them the year before, and seeing them mere hours after hatching was like seeing a famous celebrity. They’re so tiny as they wobble along waiting for fish to eat. My favorite scene was when the parent brought a fish too big to eat, then took the fish, mashed it up a bit, and made it easier to consume. I still am trying to figure out where he put it, because the fish looked bigger than the baby Skimmer.

Wood Duck, Florida

Have you ever seen injured birds while photographing?  Thankfully I haven’t seen too many. I did see a Willet with a bad leg that looked like the circulation was cut off from fishing line. I got a quick glimpse as another Willet shared some food, then both flew off in the distance. Most of the locations we explore have bird sanctuaries nearby in the event we come across an injured bird.

Sandwich Tern, Florida

Why is wildlife photography important to you? 

As a kid, I could always be found exploring the woods for any kind of wildlife I could find. Now that I have added 500mm to my eyesight, I have discovered a world of beauty I never could have imagined, and it surrounds you everywhere. My own backyard has provided some fantastic shots of wildlife, and I’m a short drive away from Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Once you open your eyes and pay attention, the world around you changes. I’ve seen Bald Eagles in the middle of the city, or the Mockingbird that turned out to be a Cedar Waxwing, or a Wilson’s Plover that turned out to be a Piping Plover, currently the sixth most endangered bird in America. If my photos help open up people’s eyes to the beauty that surrounds them, maybe they would think twice before chasing a group of Plovers or Terns, or leaving trash on the beach.

Semi-palmated Plover, Florida

All images copyright 2012 Matt Bryant. All rights reserved.  

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.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Robyn Carter of New Zealand and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.