Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for November 2012

November 30, 2012

White Pelican Scheduled for Release on Saturday at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve — and You’re Invited!

Photos of American White Pelican at our Los Angeles center by Bill Steinkamp

As we noted yesterday on our latest count of birds in care at our centers, International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife care center currently has two American White Pelicans. One of these birds was found in distress with its leg and wing wrapped in fishing line, and was brought to us through remarkable teamwork by bird lovers in the San Fernando Valley.

After several weeks at our center, this beautiful pelican is ready for release (and very ready to return to its pod) at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve’s lake, where it was rescued. This bird is scheduled to be released on Saturday. If you’re in the area, please join us to celebrate!

WHAT: Release of American White Pelican

WHEN: Saturday, December 1 at 11 a.m.

WHERE: Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Lake. The address of the wildlife reserve is 5600 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys 91411. See map below for release location at the wildlife reserve.

Google Earth map courtesy James Hanlon

We extend our deepest thanks to the many bird lovers and organizations who helped bring this bird into care, including the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society, the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, California Wildlife Center, the Los Angeles Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team (SMART), and wildlife photographer and naturalist James Hanlon.

Pelicans are among the most costly birds to rehabilitate. Please consider supporting International Bird Rescue so that we can continue to care for these birds. Check out birdrescue.org/donate to find out how you can help.

And read James Hanlon’s full guest report on this bird’s story, from capture to release, this weekend on our blog! (Check out his wildlife photography here.)

November 29, 2012

21 Seconds that Will Make You Smile

Common Murre release, video by Jeff Robinson, who volunteers at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Area center.

November 29, 2012

Birds in Care

Here are the most common bird species we’re caring for right now at our Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area centers:

Other birds in care:

2 Common Murres
2 Common Loons
2 American White Pelicans
2 Canada Geese
1 Red-throated Loon
1 Sooty Shearwater
1 Ring-billed Gull
1 Hybrid Duck
1 California Gull
1 Black-crowned Night Heron
1 Royal Tern
1 Cackling Goose
1 Sora Rail

Total birds in care: 157

November 27, 2012

Grebes in Need — How You Can Help!

Western Grebe photos by Isabel Luevano.

International Bird Rescue’s wildlife care centers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area have started to receive an influx of ill and injured grebes, such as these two Western Grebes above.

As we detailed on our blog earlier this month, many grebes have been adversely affected by storms on the Pacific Coast. Some may have “crash-landed” and are injured or otherwise were unable to return to water. These birds, many transported from other wildlife rehabilitators to our centers, require extensive expert care, with frequent IVs and tubings upon intake. Staff and volunteers work extremely hard to get these birds back to health and waterproofing so that they may be kept in water during their recovery.

We need your support to help return these remarkable birds back to the wild. How can you help?

Adopt-a-Grebe. Our honorary adoption program is a wonderful way to help a bird in need. And a $50 grebe adoption makes an excellent holiday gift for a bird lover in your life. It’s the ultimate in wildlife stocking stuffers! Learn more about the honorary adoption program here.

Volunteer. If you are already a trained volunteer for International Bird Rescue, please contact your volunteer coordinators and sign up for a shift. We appreciate the help during this busy time!

Interested in becoming a volunteer? Find out more about our volunteer program here.

November 26, 2012

A Sooty Shearwater Showing Strength

Photo by Dr. Rebecca Duerr

This Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) recently was found stranded and came into care at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Area center emaciated and weak. It also has suffered from multiple foot problems. Staff veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr surgically removed the tip of one toe due to an infected fracture. Post-surgery, the bird went directly back into its pool at the center to prevent further injury.

He is being treated with antibiotics as well as salt: Shearwaters are tubenoses and require salt water or salt supplementation. Our staff reports that this shearwater is strong, feisty and on track for a full recovery!

Sooty Shearwaters are also known for their migratory prowess, flying 40,000 miles a year according to one study. Read more on this species at National Geographic.

November 26, 2012

Blue-Banded Pelican Sightings, from British Columbia to Baja California

Blue-Banded Pelicans R41 (top, photo by Rosemary Bishop) and R36 (bottom, photo by Mike Robinson).

Since the launch of our Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest, we’ve been receiving reports of banded pelicans every week. All of these sightings are important and interesting, but a few recent ones have stood out.

R41 and R36 (shown above) are both first-year birds that came into our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center in July. R36 had fishing tackle injuries, and R41 was heavily contaminated with fish oil from one of the public fish-processing stations in Bodega Bay. Both were rehabilitated and released at Ft. Baker under the Golden Gate Bridge on August 23.

These birds were just reported separately, but with other pelicans, in Victoria, British Columbia, about 900 miles north of the Bay Area. R36 was first seen on November 18, 87 days after its release, at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve in Victoria. R41 was seen on November 22, 91 days post-release, at Ogden Point in Victoria.

R36 and R41 have traveled the farthest north of any banded pelicans that we have had sightings on thus far, and both were reported as healthy and normal-acting as seen in these photos.

Not all of these rehabilitated birds survive. On October 29, T20, a first-year bird that had suffered fishing tackle injuries and was treated at our Los Angeles facility, was found dead near Las Bombas in Baja California, Mexico, 42 days after its release and nearly 600 miles from its release site in San Pedro near the Port of Los Angeles. Although the reporting of a dead banded bird is always unsettling, it’s nevertheless important information for this project. T20 recovered from its rehabilitation and clearly headed hundreds of miles south.

It’s sometimes thought that young birds coming into our care with fishing tackle injuries are just pier bums, begging for fish scraps and getting into trouble. But that is not always the rule. Begging for free fish and stealing from fishermen is something that many pelicans, both young and adult, do because they’re opportunistic. T20, like many other young pelicans, was no exception to the rule and likely got hooked while trying to grab fish off a line that it thought was his for the taking. But it took off for Mexico, unlike many other rehabilitated young pelicans, and survived for 42 days before it was found dead on the beach. No obvious reasons were reported.

As more banded pelicans are reported, we will share their stories. They are being discovered all along the coast, from Baja to British Columbia, piecing together a story of their survival along the way.

November 24, 2012

The Release Files: Thick-billed Murre Returns to Alaskan Waters

Last week, we reported on this blog about a number of animals found on Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island contaminated by oil from an unknown origin.

The source of this mystery oil has yet to be identified, according to news reports. But we’ve been at the ready to receive any oiled wildlife should more be found by officials or villagers on the remote island in the Bering Sea.

On November 10, International Bird Rescue received an oiled Thick-billed Murre, which was washed and rehabilitated at our Alaska Wildlife Response Center in Anchorage, founded following the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. (Check out local media reports on this bird at Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Radio.)

After careful washing and treatment, the bird was released. We will keep you updated should we receive further oiled animals.

Did you know? International Bird Rescue is no stranger to treating birds oiled by remote spills in the Alaska region. In early 1996, we treated 165 King Eiders (a large northern seaduck) that had been oiled following a collision of two ships. The accident resulted in heavy fuel oil leaking into waters near St. Paul Island in the Pribilof Islands, located about 750 miles southwest of Anchorage.

A total of 126 birds were released by March 23, 1996. The survival rate at the completion of this response was 78%. Read a comprehensive report on this spill response here.

International Bird Rescue’s Julie Skoglund releases a Thick-billed Murre found oiled off Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island and treated at the Alaska Wildlife Response Center in Anchorage.

November 24, 2012

Amid a Record 900 Pelicans: A Story of Hope

pelican-bandage 2This adult Brown Pelican came to us with multiple fish hooks stuck in its jaw and wing. It made an amazing recovery.


We are continually amazed by the sheer resilience of birds — animals often harmed by human causes, and therefore in need of human care.


Record-setting numbers of birds needing care in 2012 has taxed our financial resources. Your generous donation helps keep our doors open to ALL birds.

Dear Supporter,

Every day of the year, International Bird Rescue receives and cares for injured and sick aquatic birds suffering from a host of problems.

Now and then, we witness a miraculous story. A story of tenacity. A story of hope.

And this kind of story doesn’t happen without you.

In October, an adult pelican was brought to our Southern California Wildlife Center with a large fishing lure hooked to both his jaw and right wing. Once our staff freed this beautiful bird from multiple hooks, our veterinarian, Dr. Duerr, performed an examination under anesthesia and discovered just how bad the infected facial wound really was. A jaw this damaged could render a bird that must plunge dive at rapid speed for its food unable to hunt — and therefore to survive. The outlook was grim. Read: Blog post

But we are continually amazed by the sheer resilience of birds — animals often harmed by human causes, and therefore in need of human care. We see heavily oiled common murres come back to life with careful washing. Loons, ducks and petrels that crash into high-rises or lighthouses once again take flight after wing wraps and a little TLC. Even wayward albatrosses and tropicbirds find their course back into the deep ocean with our help.

This pelican hadn’t given up. He was eating well, keeping his bill in alignment, even snapping aggressively at us like a normal, spirited pelican should! So Dr. Duerr and staff decided to give the bird a chance and strategized a plan to help him recover.

It wasn’t easy: The pelican needed to use his mouth as normally as possible while healing, so bandaging and wound care were a challenge. But with careful treatment, the wound had reduced remarkably within weeks and could be closed with stitches. Until then, he had to be kept out of the water. Now he could finally go for a swim and join the other pelicans in our large pelican aviary. A wonderful sight.

On November 1st, Dr. Duerr re-examined him. The injury was completely healed, and there was no evidence that the remaining muscles and bones of his jaw had further problems. The pelican had excellent range of motion of the joint and was snapping his beak at staff and volunteers with vigor. All medications were discontinued, and he continued to be fed and observed while gaining strength.

What was it about this particular bird? He came to our hospital in horrible condition, as so many others do, from a cause that wasn’t inflicted upon him by nature, but by humanity. Something in this bird offered hope. Matched in tenacity by the staff that cared for him, this pelican beat the odds and not only survived, but thrived. Over 900 pelicans were admitted to our hospitals this year, a record for us. Pelicans and other aquatic birds are important to all of us because they are critical indicators of ocean health. And every day, we see how they’re affected by environmental problems when they’re brought to our hospitals by people like you, people who care about what happens to them. Helping them now ensures the conservation and protection of these species for generations to come.

How-you-dollars-help 2Each dollar you give is critical. Your support provides dinner-bowls of fish, essential antibiotics, water to fill our hospital pools, bandages, x-rays and expert care to every bird that comes through our doors. Record-setting numbers of birds needing care this year taxed our financial resources. Our commitment to “never close our doors to any aquatic bird in need” is in jeopardy. In order to continue to provide expert care, an open door policy and hope for these birds we are asking you to donate generously today. Your investment in Bird Rescue ensures that this level of expert care is always available in any emergency.

We cannot do it without you. Please become a member today. Annual membership provides us with the ongoing financial security to operate our programs. Give a gift of membership or adoption to someone you love.

The pelican in our story will return to nature, to be wild and free again. Watching any bird being released from care back to the wild is a profound and deeply moving experience. It is why we care for over 5,000 birds each year. Every now and then, there is a bird that reminds us in a compelling way of a greater lesson. Sometimes, even in the most hopeless situations, there comes a faint glimmer that compels you to press on and rise to a challenge. As Emily Dickinson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers.”

With deep gratitude and best wishes for a joyful holiday season,


Jay Holcomb
International Bird Rescue

P.S. – There are many ways you can help the birds at International Bird Rescue. Please consider adopting a pelican or one of our other seabirds that needs your help. As always, your gifts are tax-deductible.

give-today-button 2

November 23, 2012

Blue-Banded Pelican Contest: Clue #3

In last week’s clue for our current Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest, we talked about pelicans commonly found on the breakwaters.

This week’s sighting tip? Pelicans love to hang out on sandbars with fellow pelicans, gulls and other birds. They like to bathe in fresh water around these areas, so often you can see them preening and lounging after bathing. It’s an easy place to spot them, and there’s usually a limited amount of grass or rocks to block the view of the bands. So check out sandbars in bays or at the mouths of rivers.

During domoic acid outbreaks in the Malibu area, we go to sandbars to identify pelicans that are being impacted. Produced by harmful algal blooms, domoic acid is a neurotoxin, and birds that have been affected can be seen weaving their heads back and forth. Pelicans that have been heavily impacted can even fall out of the sky. If we can get to them in time, we can treat them with aggressive fluid therapy and medications to reduce the seizures. Many survive.

J65, as seen here in the photo above, came to us as a sick adult bird, having hung out around the Malibu spit. Unfortunately, this bird did no survive post-release. A post-mortem did not show any abnormalities — it may simply have been an old bird. Whether or not they survive, we collect as much data as we can on these Blue-Banded Pelicans to find out more about their post-release experiences.

Want to know more about this sighting contest? Check out the rules here. You can report your sighting via our online system.

November 20, 2012

Tuesday Stats: Birds at Our San Francisco Bay Area Center

At last count, there were 66 birds in care at our Bay Area wildlife care center, including:

Bird count at International Bird Rescue’s Bay Area center as of Monday:

29 Brown Pelicans
17 Western Grebes
4 Western Gulls
3 Canada Geese
2 Northern Fulmars
2 California Gulls
2 Hybrid Ducks
1 Belted Kingfisher
1 Mallard Duck
1 Ruddy Duck
1 Common Murre
1 Sooty Shearwater
1 Mute Swan
1 Brandt’s Cormorant

It costs about $110 a day to provide the fish needed to feed these birds.

Will you help us FILL THE BILL? Donate and support these animals in need today!

Pelican watercolor by David Scheirer, Studio Tuesday.

Western Grebe photo (center) by Bill Steinkamp.