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

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 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.


October 9, 2012

Photographers in Focus: Jeff Robinson

Jeff Robinson with a curious Crimson Rosella

Where would we be without our volunteers?

The answer wouldn’t be a pretty one. Every day, we depend on many supporters who fold laundry, wash dishes, handle birds and feed the flocks. And they also help us to document our work so that we can show it to the world.

Jeff Robinson helps us do that in a big way. He’s an excellent wildlife photographer and videographer who has an eye for detail — most notably the careful steps we take to rehabilitate aquatic birds and release them back into the wild. Here’s his backstory and a sampling of his work:

How did you get started in bird photography?

Robinson: In 2003, I went on an African safari with family and friends. I was eager to take pictures of the classic African mammals. The mammals were indeed fascinating, but I was even more intrigued by the Malachite Kingfishers. Other African birds range from eagles to Cape Sugarbirds, with penguins and many others in between. After my first trip, I was so excited that I returned to Africa within a few months. It changed my life.

For six years I photographed in Africa twice a year, and I started posting my pictures online. Then it dawned on me that there are other birds on other continents. There are even birds in North America! We are fortunate to have many colorful birds, from buntings to Wood Ducks. So I turned my camera to these birds.

Malachite Kingfisher

What led you to volunteer at International Bird Rescue?

Photography led me to watching and identifying birds. Most birdwatchers come across sick or injured birds, and I was no exception. I took a course on how to rescue birds safely and effectively. At the course, I met some wonderful people who rehabilitated birds, and I was soon doing volunteer rehabilitation work myself.

African Fish Eagle

What’s the best part of volunteering?

I am inspired by colleagues who are dedicated to the welfare and treatment of every bird. The effort, thought and time they devote to the birds is just amazing. It is a privilege to work with them, and it is a privilege to be so close to the birds and see every detail of their plumage. Of course, I have photographed many of the species we help. By rehabilitating the birds, you realize how different a Cattle Egret feels and behaves compared to a cormorant. I should also mention that releasing the birds is absolutely one of life’s most thrilling experiences.

African Penguins 

Cape Sugarbird

What about videography?

I tried to take photographs of bird releases but it was difficult to capture a release in a still photo. It often happens so fast. So I changed to taking video. You never know exactly how a bird will behave during release, and that is part of the fun.

A video compendium of International Bird Rescue releases

What are your plans for the future?

I will continue to do volunteer rehab work and take videos of releases. I have started to compile a library of videos of the birds we have in rehab. I have also started to document case studies of some birds — for example, a Brown Pelican lost near Yosemite National Park or a California Gull entangled in a plastic bag (see video below).  I hope the videos will be useful in the future to show to our visitors or other interested parties.

A plastic bag-entangled California Gull treated and released

An American Avocet at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center

For more of Jeff’s bird videos, visit youtube.com/photorobinson.

All images and video copyright Jeff Robinson. 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.

Recent Photographers in Focus:

Matt Bryant

Marie Travers

Christopher Taylor

Want to volunteer with us? Find out more information on our volunteer program here.

October 8, 2012

Bird Rescue News Round-Up, October 8

In this week’s round-up: declining murre populations on a Pacific Northwest island, Larry Ellison’s plans for Lanai and the latest news from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (Photo by Matthew Ryan Williams for the New York Times)

—Researchers find disturbing cross-species population declines on Washington state’s tiny Tatoosh Island: “[H]istorically hardy populations of gulls and murres are only half what they were 10 years ago, and only a few chicks hatched this spring. … Biologists suspect that the shifts are related to huge declines in the water’s pH, a shift attributed to the absorption of excess carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in ever-greater amounts by the burning of fossil fuels for energy.”  [NYT]

—Organized crime rings are decimating tropical rainforest habitat. [The Perch: Audubon Magazine]

—Larry Ellison’s plans for the Hawaiian island of Lanai, of which he bought 98% of earlier this year for an undisclosed price? “A little laboratory” for environmental projects including: converting sea water into fresh water, more electric cars and more fruit exports to Japan and other nations. [Associated Press]

—Via Science 2.0, environmental factors associated with bird-window collisions. [Science 2.0]

—National Geographic reporter Jonathan Waterman’s latest report aboard a research vessel on its way to study the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. [The Ocean — National Geographic]

October 6, 2012

Birds in Care, October 6

October 5, 2012

SANCCOB Releases 100th African Penguin from SELI 1 Oil Slick

An update on the penguins impacted by the SELI 1 oil spill from our friends at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) in South Africa:

Since the SELI 1 caused a major oil slick off Table Bay on Saturday, 1 September 2012, SANCCOB (the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) admitted a total of 254 seabirds to their centre in Table View for rehabilitation. The birds admitted included 219 oiled, endangered African penguins, 2 oiled Cape Gannets, 33 penguin chicks and 3 eggs that were abandoned as a result of their parents being oiled.

With the help of the dedicated staff and volunteers of SANCCOB, the last of the oiled birds were washed on 19 September and were admitted for rehabilitation together with the other birds affected by the oil slick. Two of the eggs have hatched in SANCCOB’s Chick Rearing Unit while one was deemed not viable. Small groups of African penguins have been released back into the wild after getting the final nod-of-approval from SANCCOB’s veterinary team. On Thursday, SANCCOB proudly released the 100th African penguin affected by the SELI 1 oil slick off the coast of Robben Island.

Venessa Strauss (CEO of SANCCOB) said, “The release of the 100th African penguin affirms the hard work put in by our dedicated staff and volunteers in getting our birds back on their feet. We have only lost two birds, which came into our care in a very weak state, during the entire SELI 1 rescue operation. The hard work is far from finished, and we expect the rest of the birds in our care to be released in the next two weeks. SANCCOB’s team remains vigilant until the wreck of the SELI 1 will be removed for good”.

The remaining birds are in good health and responding well to the rehabilitation and will be released in the coming weeks. SANCCOB invites members of the public to attend a beach release of the next group of African penguins at Boulder’s Beach (Seaforth Beach), Simon’s Town, on 13 October 2012 for the opening of the Simon’s Town Penguin Festival in commemoration of African Penguin Awareness Day which is celebrated on the same day.

The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) is a leading marine-orientated non-profit organization which has treated more than 90,000 oiled, ill, injured or abandoned African penguins and other threatened seabirds since being established in 1968. Independent research confirms that the wild African population is 19% higher directly due to SANCCOB’s efforts.

Nice work!

October 5, 2012

Remembering New Zealand’s Rena Oil Spill, 1 Year Later

                                                                       Little Blue Penguin in the Rena Spill, photo by Curt Clumpner

By Barbara Callahan, International Bird Rescue

In the early morning hours of October 5, 2011, the MV Rena, a large cargo ship carrying 1,368 containers, struck a reef in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, spilling several hundred metric tons of heavy fuel and causing the worst maritime environmental disaster in the nation’s history. An estimated 2,000 seabirds died as a result.

Thankfully, many more were saved. Over 400 oiled birds were brought into care, and 375 of those were released. By oiled wildlife response standards, that’s a highly successful release rate.

Being part of an oil spill response team at International Bird Rescue, I never know exactly where I might find myself in the world, working with oiled birds and helping to manage yet another chaotic oiled wildlife response. But today, as we mark the first anniversary of the Rena disaster, I look back at the hard work done and commend our New Zealand colleagues for a well-planned, well-executed response.

Our colleagues at Massey University Wildlife Health Centre, who are under contract from Maritime New Zealand to provide training and emergency response to oil spills within New Zealand waters, invited us to assist in managing their first real oiled wildlife event. For many years, Massey had been preparing for and training a national response team for oiled wildlife, and clearly showed their preparedness for such an event with a well thought-out response plan, one that included mobile equipment, trained staff and a predetermined site for the wildlife response to be based. An experience cadre of staff from the New Zealand Department of Conservation managed all the fieldwork and collected the oiled animals.

International Bird Rescue first deployed Curt Clumpner, our preparedness director and longtime senior response manager, who was designated as the deputy wildlife center manager. I arrived a day or two later. Having experience in helping manage the wildlife branch of a spill response, I stood in for the wildlife coordinator at the Incident Command Center. All told, we brought over another six experienced responders who could help oversee critical areas at the wildlife response center.

Oiled Little Blue Penguins, photo by Michelle Bellizzi

By the time the first birds were brought in, a fully functional oiled wildlife facility was ready and waiting (the Iwi community even did a special blessing each morning at the command center). The species we saw the most of were Little Blue Penguins (Eudyptula minor) and endangered New Zealand Dotterels (Charadrius obscurus), as well as other pelagic species such as the Pied Cormorant. Collecting the oiled penguins was a relatively simple task. Night after night, they go up the same path to the same burrow. At each known penguin colony, field crews would work to check each of the penguins as they made their way home. If oiled, they were brought into care; if not, they stayed out. Penguins that were washed and released were micro-chipped and are monitored post-release to determine survivability.

The other great story during this response is that of the New Zealand Dotterel, a small endemic shorebird. Only about 1,700 remain in the wild, and about 100 of those live in the Bay of Plenty, right in the middle of the spill zone. New Zealand’s National Plan actually names this species as their highest conservation value animal, which allowed for these birds to be pre-emptively captured before they were oiled. The specialist capture team set out to collect 60 non-oiled dotterels and did just that. These birds are very territorial, which meant that they had to be housed in their own enclosures. But almost all of those were successfully released after their habitat was cleaned.

Washing a Little Blue Penguin, photo courtesy Maritime New Zealand


More information about this spill and the post-release monitoring of the Little Blue Penguins and New Zealand Dotterels from our colleagues at Massey University. Download PDF

In the last dozen years on International Bird Rescue’s team, I have been fortunate enough to have been deployed to France, South Africa, Spain, Estonia, Norway, and most recently New Zealand, among many other exotic places right here in the United States. Nearly always, we work alongside others who are equally interested in seabirds and wildlife. This shared passion goes a long way to bridge the gap of cultural differences as we come together as colleagues and leave as friends.

We have a huge respect for our New Zealand friends and colleagues and are so proud to have had an opportunity to work together on such an important and successful response. Together, we do make a difference in this world.


Barbara Callahan is International Bird Rescue’s response services director and regional representative for the Alaska region.

October 5, 2012

5 Minutes with “Winged Planet” Director John Downer

Barnacle Geese over Tantallon Castle, Scotland. Photo courtesy Discovery Channel.


With campaign season cacophony in full gear on the airwaves, we’re looking forward to a bit of wildlife respite this weekend with the Saturday premiere of Winged Planet, an innovative documentary on the lives of birds around the world.

A co-production of the BBC and Discovery Channel, the film is directed by John Downer, whose previous works include Elephants: Spy in the Herd and Tiger: Spy in the Jungle.

In Winged Planet, the espionage theme continues. Downer fitted several different species with lightweight cameras for — dare we indulge the pun — a bird’s eye view of the world. And an exhilarating one at that.

Downer took a few minutes with International Bird Rescue’s Every Bird Matters blog to chat about his latest (and perhaps greatest) cinematic endeavor, one four years in the making.

We’ve read that you started your documentary career filming snakes. What made you move on to birds?

John Downer with macaws. Photo courtesy John Downer Productions.

Downer: Snakes were just one of the subjects. I liked the idea of celebrating something that people generally didn’t like and trying to get people to understand and celebrate them by getting into their world. The next film I made was on bird flight. The challenge there was to find a way of filming them that captured the magic and beauty of their flight, although this film was made 25 years ago. I always had this in mind when I returned to some of the techniques in Winged Planet. 

What type of camera made these aerial shots possible?

The “birdcams” were stripped down versions of small HD cameras. They had to be greatly modified to lose over three-quarters of their weight and had new wide-angle lenses attached.

Were the birds commandeering these cameras imprinted?

For birdcam shots, it was a mixture of imprinted birds, rehabbed raptors that had developed a strong relationship with their keeper, or at times, someone’s pet! The key was a good relationship so they would always come back, and a good temperament.

Camera onboard shot of Rüppell’s Vulture flying over Kenya, East Africa. Photo courtesy Discovery Channel.

Were you surprised by any avian behavior captured on film?

I was continually surprised by what we found. But it was the relationships with other animals that became a recurring theme. For example, although we had filmed a sardine run before, we had never shot it from the gannet’s point of view (see photo below). And it soon became clear that the dolphins and the whales were both watching the gannets, and the gannets were watching them. They were pooling their knowledge to find food. The gannets were the eyes in the sky.

Gannets diving with Bass Rock in background, Scotland. Photo courtesy Discovery Channel.

What was your favorite species to film?

I like the Common Cranes. The imprinted flocks were a joy to work with, very reliable, allowing us to fly with them over the Camargue or above the Loire Valley in France. Their courtship dance was also a delight. So entertaining.

Common Cranes, video courtesy Discovery Channel.

In the four years it took to make this film, did you get a sense of the fragility of habitat many of these birds call home?

I certainly did get that sense, but more importantly, it’s evident as you follow them across continents that we’re talking about a huge network of habitats. And the birds don’t just rely on them — they rely on the life that lives there too. When you enter the bird’s world, you discover the reality of the interconnectedness of all life.

Winged Planet premieres on Discovery Channel at 8PM ET/PT on Saturday, October 6. Learn more about the film at Discovery’s website.

Brown Pelicans and Gulls underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo courtesy Discovery Channel.


October 3, 2012

The Painful Truth

A California Brown Pelican upon admission to International Bird Rescue – its wrist hooked to its face with a fishing lure

On Monday, 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 the bird’s face, but to its wrist, such that any movement of its 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, as shown below, had to be snipped for extraction. Judging by the advanced parasitic state of the wound on its face, with a huge opening below the eye and around the hinge of its jaw, this bird must have been in this predicament for several days before being rescued.

The lure removed, and the wound flushed, the Pelican was started on antibiotics and will require surgery when it has been stabilized.

The very sight of this bird’s injuries inspires an immediate empathy in all of us, but every bird that comes through our doors is there for a reason… and we treat about 5,000 of them every year. We need your help in order to help them all. If you haven’t made a gift this year, please consider doing so today.

Every bird matters.