Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for October 2012

October 27, 2012

Win this Original Art and Save Seabirds

Dear Friends,

2012 has truly been the year of the pelican here at International Bird Rescue, with hundreds of these beautiful birds filling our wildlife care centers for myriad reasons. Emaciated, injured by fish hooks, victims of human cruelty — you name it, we’ve seen it. Your support helps us care for all of these pelicans and many other aquatic birds.

This week, we’ve had some good news. We recently released our 1,000th pelican as part of our Blue-Banded Pelican Project, which helps us to track these magnificent birds as they return to their coastal habitats. To mark the occasion, artist David Scheirer painted this delightful original pelican watercolor. And it could be yours.

Donate $20 or more between now and November 1 Sunday, November 4, and you could win this 8″ x 10″ painting signed by the artist. What’s more, any donation of $100 $75 or more gets you a FREE seabird watercolor 3″ x 3″ mini-print (a $20 value), thanks to the generosity of the artist and an anonymous International Bird Rescue supporter. We’ll e-mail you directly once you’ve made your donation and send you your choice of mini-print from the options below (puffins, pelican, or terns) within three weeks. (Update: We’ve added four more days to the contest! Give $75 or more and a seabird mini-print is all yours. We’ll announce the winner of the original watercolor next week.)

David Scheirer is an illustrator and painter from the Washington, D.C. area. He primarily works in watercolor and alternates between painting realistic, detailed watercolors and a whimsical illustration style of birds, the ocean, and the coasts.

Support International Bird Rescue today and enter to win!

With deepest gratitude,

International Bird Rescue

Any donation of $100 or more gets you a FREE seabird watercolor 3″ x 3″ print of your choice from the options above!

October 27, 2012

Birds in Our Care, San Francisco Bay Area

Who are we taking care of in the Bay Area these days?

SF Bay Area volunteer coordinator Cheryl Reynolds provides us with the latest patient numbers at our NorCal center:

Pied-billed Grebe: 2
Common Murre: 1
Brandt’s Cormorant: 1
Western Gull: 2
Brown Pelican: 16
Black-Crowned Night Heron: 1
California Gull: 1
Herring Gull: 1
Mallard Duck: 1
Canada Goose: 1
Mute Swan: 1
Western Grebe: 8
Clark’s Grebe:

Over the past week, the center has also released:

4 Brandt’s Cormorants
1 Cassin’s Auklet
2 Brown Pelicans
1 Mallard Duck

October 25, 2012

Bird Rescue News Round-Up, October 25

What’s new? One-third of the nation’s bird species are in need of conservation protection, New Zealand seeks to end seabird by-catch, and the growing movement for “dark sky reserves.” (Night image courtesy Marc Imhoff of NASA)

—The National Park Service and the nonprofit International Dark-Sky Association have begun to identify dark sky reserves across the globe. [Audubon Magazine Blog]

—A new study on a full range of bird species in all 50 U.S. states and dependent territories finds that more than one-third of these birds are in need of conservation attention.

Via American Bird Conservancy:

“By looking beyond the species we can better gauge the conservation status of the total diversity of birds in the United States,” said the study’s principal author and American Bird Conservancy Vice President, Mike Parr. “There are more than twice as many subspecies recognized as there are full species, so these data provide a more complete picture than we have ever had previously. In addition, birds that are today classed as subspecies may tomorrow be re-classified as full species when more information comes to light. This study will help make sure we don’t miss these birds as we move forward with conservation programs. While the good news is that most of the highest scoring (most “At-Risk”) birds are already protected by the Endangered Species Act, there are definitely some surprises in here too,” Parr said. [American Bird Conservancy]

—Project FeederWatch takes a look at the winter ahead. [Round Robin — Cornell Lab of Ornithology]

—New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries pursues a national plan of action to reduce the incidental catch of seabirds in the country’s fisheries. [Ministry for Primary Industries]

—European MPs and animal rights activists have launched a campaign to end the sale of foie gras, produced by force-feeding ducks and geese and decried as torture. [France 24]

—Always at the forefront of bird photography, National Geographic publishes an awesome photo essay of Emperor Penguins in its November 2012 issue:

When an emperor penguin swims through the water, it is slowed by the friction between its body and the water, keeping its maximum speed somewhere between four and nine feet a second. But in short bursts the penguin can double or even triple its speed by releasing air from its feathers in the form of tiny bubbles. These reduce the density and viscosity of the water around the penguin’s body, cutting drag and enabling the bird to reach speeds that would otherwise be impossible. (As an added benefit, the extra speed helps the penguins avoid predators such as leopard seals.) [National Geographic; photo by Paul Nicklen]

October 25, 2012

1,000 Blue-Banded Pelicans — and Counting!

On a recent afternoon at the Golden Gate Recreation Area’s Ft. Baker, International Bird Rescue released its 1,000th Blue-Banded Pelican, with wonderful help from bird lover Ken Blum and his family!

#ROO, a juvenile, was released alongside a fellow juvenile pelican. Surrounded by porpoises, gulls, cormorants, grebes and sea lions at Ft. Baker, the two birds took a few moments to find their bearings upon leaving their respective crates, then headed off and performed some fantastic synchronized flying in the bay. The Blum family attended with our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center manager Michelle Bellizzi (pictured below with Benjamin Blum) and volunteer coordinator Cheryl Reynolds.

Why are these pelicans wearing blue bands, you might ask?

International Bird Rescue has been saving pelicans since 1971. Once decimated by the use of DDT, which put them on the endangered species list, the population has since rebounded in recent decades, and the species was taken off the endangered list in 2009. However, we still receive hundreds of Brown Pelicans each year at our centers for a variety of reasons, from fishing hook injuries to seal bites to domoic acid poisoning — the result of a neurotoxin produced by algae.

We are not content to simply release these animals back into the wild. We want to know what happens to them. That’s why beginning in 2009, we began putting larger, blue plastic bands on their legs for easy identification. These bands are in addition to the metal federal band. Because of this, we are receiving many more reports from the public on these birds — exactly what we were hoping for!

Want to get involved? Here are two of the best ways to do so:

1. Look for Blue-Banded Pelicans — at the beach, the piers, or wherever pelicans hang out. It’s fun and you may get to see one or more of the birds that we have cared for. Make sure to catch the band number, then let us know about your sighting at Report a Bird on our website.

2. Become a supporter of International Bird Rescue. Pelicans are extremely costly to rehabilitate and release back into the wild. These birds consume about half their body weight per day — and the fish bill adds up. Your donation will help ensure that our mission to help pelicans and other aquatic birds in need continues. Find out more here.

Photos and video By Cheryl Reynolds

October 23, 2012

Patient Rounds: Cassin’s Auklet

Among the birds currently in care at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center is a Cassin’s Auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus), one that sustained injuries after flying into a lighthouse.

A small seabird that nests in colonies on the Pacific coast of the United States and Mexico, Cassin’s Auklet is the only alcid known to produce two broods in a single breeding season, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes.

This bird is doing well and is expected to be released in Pt. Reyes National Seashore. We’ll post release updates and photos soon.


October 23, 2012

Ask an Avian Vet, Edition #1

Our loyal Facebook fans often pose questions on the intricacies of wildlife rehabilitation and some of the procedures that International Bird Rescue staff has helped pioneer to save injured aquatic birds.

We threw a few recent Q’s over to Dr. Rebecca Duerr, our staff veterinarian. Duerr received her BS in Marine Biology from San Francisco State University and her DVM from the University of California at Davis. Here are her answers:



Photo by Larry Jordan for The Birders Report

Q: I thought that broken wing bones in birds were impossible to mend. Aren’t they hollow, so when broken they shatter in tiny pieces that are impossible to put together again?

Duerr: We receive a large number of birds with fractures of every bone imaginable, and successful treatment is very common. Yes, some bird bones tend to be hollow, but no, they do not tend to shatter into an unrepairable mess. If anything, I would say that bird bones are easier to fix than mammal bones because birds heal much faster.

In general, the prognosis of a given fracture depends on the species, which bone is broken, whether it is fresh or old, infected or not, the age of the bird, and many other factors. Joint fractures and old infected fractures carry the worst prognosis, fresh uninfected fractures, the best. So the sooner we are able to treat a broken bird, the better it will likely do. The most common fractures we see are fractures of the ulna (wing), which heal very well with wraps and splints, and leg bone fractures in young herons and egrets, which also do very well in splints but sometimes need surgical pinning depending on which bone it is and whether it is compound.


What species are particularly difficult to work with in captivity?

Photo by Marie Travers

Each species has its own challenges and common problems. Just like cats and dogs have different typical medical problems from each other, each species of bird has its own issues. But that being said, I would say that loons are probably the most challenging species to deal with in captivity. They are high-stress birds and often enter captivity in extremely poor condition, or even have evidence of chronic health problems such as poor feather quality. Their anatomy is such that they are not built to ever rest on solid land, so when they are not able to be housed in the water they start to develop serious problems right away.


How do you remove fish hooks without further damaging a bird’s esophagus/digestive tract?

Depends on the location of the hook and whether it is already piercing the wall of the GI tract. In every case, removal is easiest if the line is left long and attached to the outside of the bird with no tension on it. Having the line still accessible can mean the difference between an easy removal and major surgery. Tension on the line often means that the esophagus or corners of the mouth will be damaged because a tense line can cut into the tissue like a razor. In cases where X-rays show us that the hook is merely sitting inside the stomach not pierced through the wall, we sometimes use a low-tech method of feeding birds a large amount of cotton wadding to stimulate the bird to regurgitate its stomach contents.

Another low tech option for hook removal that works very well in pelicans is while the bird is under anesthesia, have someone with a small hand and skinny arm reach in there and get it out manually. Unfortunately, I have large hands, too big for any except the biggest male pelicans, so I often talk someone with more delicately sized hands through the procedure. Yes, we wear shoulder-length gloves to do this, as the inside of a pelican stomach is about as gross as you might imagine! Another method of hook removal useful when the line is still accessible is to run the line through a thick piece of tubing and maneuver the tube to get the hook secured onto the end of the tube. This method only works in some species.

As a last resort in removing a hook, I will go in surgically wherever I need to go to access the hook. But the very worst fish hook injuries we see are not generally from ingested hooks, but rather when the hook gets lodged in joints such as the hock or elbow or jaw, or pierce the tendons of the legs. Fish hooks that penetrate these areas tend to cause nasty infections and may result in permanent damage to important structures.


What’s the trickiest type of surgery you perform at International Bird Rescue?

The trickiest surgeries I perform often involve efforts to save toes, particularly when the middle toe on a webbed foot has a serious infection affecting the bones. Removing the whole toe would mean the bird will lose all the webbing on that foot, which would not be okay if the bird needs its webbing to swim. Sometimes birds even come in with severely contaminated infected bones sticking out of their foot.

After talking about this problem with the tiny number of other vets who work with these species, I started doing a procedure we call “bone deletion,” where the toe is essentially partially deboned, but the soft tissue is left behind to heal and maintain the integrity of the webbing. At first I thought this would lead to the bird having floppy webbing, but so far, the birds I have done this to have developed scar type tissue in the toe that stiffens it up as it heals. Getting these to heal well after having a severe infection can be a challenge, but birds’ ability to heal continues to amaze me.

October 16, 2012

Landing in Oakland, taking off again at Point Reyes

Ashy Storm-Petrel eats mealworms before being released back to the wild. Photo by Isabel Luevano, International Bird Rescue

A wayward Ashy Storm-Petrel was rescued in Oakland this week and treated at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center. After 4 days of stabilization, she was released back into the wild at Drakes Bay in the Point Reyes area.

This species forages at night, and she may have flown off course into the Bay Area from the Farallon Islands. Ashy Storm-Petrels prey on small fish, young squid, and crustaceans.

Nearly 50% the world’s population of these rare birds breed on islands 30 miles off the San Francisco coast. The birds are listed as a species of concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

More info:  http://birds.audubon.org/species/ashsto

October 15, 2012

Bird Rescue News Round-Up, October 15

In this week’s round-up: A King Eider survives 16 years after an oil spill, law students charged with animal cruelty, and the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge celebrates 75 years (main photo: a King Eider washed by International Bird Rescue in the 1996 Pribilof Islands spill in Alaska; inset photo: King Eiders in the wild).

—The Anchorage Daily News reports on a King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) rehabilitated by International Bird Rescue in 1996 during a remote oil spill in Alaska’s Pribilof Islands. The bird survived for nearly 16 years before a hunter shot the bird earlier this year on a legal commercial hunt.

Reporter Michelle Theriault Boots writes:

In February 1996, a collision between a freighter and a crab processor dumped heavy fuel oil into the water off St. Paul Island. Carcasses of hundreds of king eider ducks, a shy, docile species known for extravagant mating plumage that makes males look like a colorful Picasso cubist painting, washed ashore along with other migratory seabirds such as cormorants and crested auklets.

King eider survivors preened furiously on the same beaches. Soon a Berkeley, Calif.-based bird nonprofit that made a name for itself in Alaska during the Exxon-Valdez spill arrived to capture 200 of the birds and fly them by commercial airline to an Anchorage rehabilitation operation.

At the time, International Bird Rescue had never tried transporting birds from such a remote spill site to the city. In a Midtown warehouse, volunteers spent weeks washing ducks with Dawn dish soap, fluffing their feathers back to their normal waterproof condition with toothbrushes and Water Piks and feeding them hooligan and smelt, according to news reports from the time. In March, the 126 surviving ducks were flown back to St. Paul Island, banded and released.


Scientists caution against drawing conclusions based on a single bird. Still, a documented survivor more than 15 years after a spill is something, said Paul Flint, a wildlife biologist who is now a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center. Flint was one of the original U.S. Fish and Wildlife responders to the spill and banded some of the birds himself.

“The recovery of these birds so many years later tells us (the rescue) did work,” Flint said.

What’s still not known is how many other birds survived, he said. One or two other Pribilof spill birds turned up in the 1990s, said Barbara Callahan of International Bird Rescue’s Anchorage office. [Anchorage Daily News; Read the full article here.]

As Theriault Boots notes, the bands of two other King Eiders rehabilitated in the Pribilof Spill previously had been returned by hunters.

The first, #86, was captured by International Bird Rescue’s field team, flown to Anchorage and transported to our Alaska center on February 25, 1996. Nearly a month later, it was returned to St. Paul Island in the Pribiloff Islands and released. Bird #82 was hunted on March 5, 1999, three years after its release.

The other King Eider, #174, came into the same center on March 4, 1996. It was released on March 19, and was hunted on January 26, 1998, nearly two years after its release.

Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue’s director emeritus who was at the Pribiloff Spill, notes of the news, “People may find it disturbing that these gorgeous ducks are hunted, but they are very large and robust seaducks that have been hunted for generations by the indigenous people and have been a source of sustenance to villagers. There is a season to legally hunt these birds, and that is how this bird was discovered. We receive most of our band returns from hunters, as waterfowl are hunted and non-game birds are not. Therefore we receive a higher band encounter rate with waterfowl.”

—Two University of California-Berkeley law students face felony charges of conspiracy and the willful and malicious torture or killing of wildlife after decapitating a Helmeted Guineafowl at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino’s Wildlife Habitat in Las Vegas. [ABC News; photo via Wikipedia]

—The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge celebrates its 75th anniversary, and the Sacramento Bee takes a look at why these wetlands matter. [SacBee]

—We love Mute Swans. So does the bird man of Lincoln Park. [WBEZ Chicago]

—The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is teaming up with National Geographic for what appears to be a phenomenal look at birds of paradise. Via Cornell’s YouTube channel:

This fall, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Geographic are bringing the Birds-of-Paradise Project to the public with a gorgeous coffee-table book (published October 23, 2012), a major exhibit at the National Geographic Museum (opening November 1), a documentary on the National Geographic Channel (airing at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT November 22), articles in the Cornell Lab’s Living Bird magazine and National Geographic magazine, and National Geographic Live lectures across the country. Get an advance look now…and witness diverse strategies of evolution at work and experience one of nature’s extraordinary wonders – up close. [Cornell Lab of Ornithology YouTube channel]

October 14, 2012

Current Birds in Care

*At our wildlife care center in the San Francisco Bay Area, we currently have one non-avian patient as well: a Western Fence Lizard found stuck in a glue trap.

October 12, 2012

Help Us Help Them

California Brown Pelican 1473 upon admission to International Bird Rescue – her wrist hooked to her face by a fishing lure

Every bird that comes
through our doors
is there for a reason.
The only way we can
provide the care they need
is with your help.

Join us as a Sustaining Member of International Bird Rescue by making your gift repeat monthly.

Pelican 1473 shows us her good side as she recuperates.

Your membership
lets us know that we can count on your support
through thick and thin.

Dear Friends,

Last week, Redondo Beach Animal Control arrived at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Center with a California Brown Pelican in desperate need of assistance. A fishing lure was hooked not just to the side of her face, but to her wrist, such that any movement of her head or wing would tug at the wounds on each. All three barbs on each end of the lure – six barbs in total – were embedded into the Pelican’s flesh and had to be snipped for extraction. Judging by the advanced parasitic state of her facial wound, with a huge opening below her eye and around the hinge of her jaw, she must have been in this heartbreaking predicament for several days before being rescued.

The lure removed, and her wound flushed, the Pelican, now called 1473, was started on antibiotics and stabilized. She then underwent surgery to remove necrotic bone and tissue in her jaw area. She was eating again that very night! With such a large wound to close, her rehabilitation at International Bird Rescue will be a lengthy one, but this bird is a fighter. She is alert, feisty, and has a big appetite. Once her wounds have healed and she demonstrates an ability to fly with strength – and therefore hunt for herself – we anticipate that she will be released back into the wild.

I’d like to say that this heart-wrenching story is an unusual one, but sadly it is repeated at our centers five thousand times a year. Every bird that arrives at our doors has a story to tell. They are all there for one reason – because they need our help.

We are so fortunate to have a team of dedicated staff and volunteers that specialize in the care of seabirds and aquatic birds. But these birds don’t arrive with health insurance, and the only way we can provide the care they need is with your help. If you haven’t made a donation to International Bird Rescue this year – or even if you have – please consider doing so today. Our centers care for birds every day of the year so recurring monthly gifts (of any size) are the very best way of showing your ongoing support for this important work. You will find information about becoming a Sustaining Member on our online gift form. Every bird matters and so does every gift.

With deepest gratitude,

Paul Kelway Signature Photo



All three barbs on each end of the lure – six barbs in total – had to be snipped.