Every Bird Matters
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Archive for December 2012

December 30, 2012

Report from Alaska: International Bird Rescue mobilized as a precaution in stalled drill ship incident

The U.S. Coast Guard evacuates crew members on the Kulluk drilling unit. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.

ANCHORAGE — International Bird Rescue’s senior wildlife response team has been activated as a contingency measure after a tow pulling the drilling vessel Kullak stalled Thursday in stormy seas near Alaska’s Kodiak Island, prompting an evacuation of its 18-person crew. See Incident Command updates: 2012 Shell Alaska Aiviq tow – Gulf of Alaska incident

As of Sunday, the Aiviq tugboat towing the Royal Dutch Shell drilling unit had regained power to all four of her engines. The tug and drill ship had previously been drifting approximately 27 miles east of the Trinity Islands, which is part of the Gulf of Alaska unit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. A second tug has secured to the Kulluk with a third in the vicinity for emergency support.

Shell has set up a full Incident Command Post in Anchorage, and four International Bird Rescue response team members are working with the Wildlife Branch at the Command Center.

“We are very pleased that Shell is being proactive about any potential impacts to wildlife by having us on site to plan and prepare,” said International Bird Rescue director Jay Holcomb.

International Bird Rescue has extensive oil spill response experience in Alaska, including the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, where our staff spent six months managing three bird centers and two search-and-collection programs.

In November, International Bird Rescue responded to oiled wildlife found on Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island and rehabilitated at our Alaska Wildlife Response Center.

Read the latest report on the vessels here via Anchorage Daily News and stayed tuned for updates on this blog.

Interactive map: International Bird Rescue’s historic spill response efforts in Alaska

View International Bird Rescue: Historical spill response efforts in Alaska in a larger map

About us: International Bird Rescue (IBR) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that has been helping seabirds and other aquatic birds around the world since 1971. IBR’s Oil Spill Response Team has led oiled wildlife rescue efforts in more than 200 oil spills in a dozen countries around the world.

International Bird Rescue maintains an oiled wildlife response team comprising trained and experienced emergency managers, professional wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians, biologists and other wildlife experts.

International Bird Rescue is committed to reducing the impact of oil on wildlife by releasing the highest possible number of animals back into the wild. To do this most effectively, International Bird Rescue works cooperatively with the Responsible Party (RP) and the state and federal agencies. Animals being treated at the rehabilitation center must move through the system as quickly as possible.

December 30, 2012

Birds of 2012: A Brown Pelican’s Miraculous Recovery (October)

As 2012 draws to a close, we’re looking back on some of International Bird Rescue’s most fascinating case studies of the year. Today, we remember an amazing comeback by a Brown Pelican, told by Dr. Rebecca Duerr:

On October 1, young adult Brown Pelican 12-1473 was brought to our Los Angeles facility by Redondo Beach Animal Control with a large, multi-hooked piece of fishing tackle attaching the right side of her head to her right wing.

Once our staff freed her from the hooks, it was readily apparent that her wounds were very severe. The wing had numerous hooks in it, thankfully none causing serious damage, but the facial wound was extremely concerning. The hooks were lodged in the skull and mandible (lower jaw) bones at the temporomandibular joint (TMJ—the jaw hinge), and in addition to a large amount of dead tissue in the wound, there were maggots infesting the area. The bird was emaciated and very weak but responded well to fluid therapy and warmth, and later began eating eagerly when fish was offered.

I first examined the bird a few days later, after she had become stronger and more stable medically. From what I had heard, I thought it was going to be a clear-cut case that might warrant euthanasia, as the amount of damage to important structures was likely to be extensive. Brown Pelicans plunge-dive at top speed, mouth first, into the ocean to catch dinner, so damage to the jaw joint could result in a bird unable to feed itself.

We anesthetized her so I could evaluate the injury. I found a large and deep open wound located in the triangular area between the eye, ear and TMJ, with a piece of dead bone hanging free in the air and deep pockets of infected material that penetrated the jaw muscles and skull. The ear canal appeared uninjured at the edge of the wound but had maggots once again infesting it. I removed the dead piece of bone, excavated dead bone from the skull and cleaned out all the debris. Deep in the wound, I discovered that the TMJ itself was open to the outside world, and joint fluid was oozing into the wound. I had a full view of the articular cartilage of the bony surfaces where the mandible hinges in its groove on the skull, kind of like looking down into the surfaces inside a door hinge.

At this point, it looked like euthanasia was the best option for the bird, as open joints are highly likely to suffer damage from infection, which would likely destroy the important cartilage that allows the hinge to move smoothly. This bird was also missing a piece of the jugal bone, the dead bone removed earlier.

But after finishing cleaning all the dead tissue out of the wound and talking to the staff about how well the bird was doing, I changed my mind. She was eating very well and holding her bill in perfectly normal alignment, even snapping aggressively at people like a normal, frisky pelican should, and the joint surfaces of the TMJ looked currently undamaged, although obviously were contaminated and at risk of deterioration.


Considering some of the incredibly nasty wounds from which we have seen pelicans successfully heal, we decided to see what we could do for this bird to facilitate her recovery from this devastating injury. We knew it was a long shot, not only because it was possible the infection would continue to spread despite antibiotic therapy, but also because even if it did heal, the bird could wind up with a jaw joint that didn’t work very well.

We developed a plan of daily wound care to both protect the open joint hinge and foster growth of new tissue in the rest of the wound. Our wound care had to be frequent enough that even if flies laid eggs on the bird, we would be able to remove them before they hatched. Due to the location of the wound, application of wound dressings was a challenge. We could not wrap bandages all the way around the head or else the pouch would be constricted in a manner that prevented the bird from eating. Whenever possible, we allow birds to feed themselves if they are minded to. In this case, I wanted the bird to use the mouth as normally as possible while the joint was healing. We also needed to keep the bird out of the water for a time to prevent the wound dressings from becoming wet with pool water.

Two weeks later, we anesthetized the bird to assess the wound’s progress. I once again found a deep hole with a lot of debris inside, although it was only about one-fourth the diameter of the original wound. Once I cleaned it out and inspected it with magnification, I found that the joint had closed over, and all the tissue inside the hole appeared to be healthy granulation tissue. Due to ongoing concerns with fly strike, and considering how healthy the tissue appeared inside the hole, I decided to suture the wound closed. The bird was able to finally take a bath and enjoy roaming around our pelican aviary.

As of November 1, after a month of treatment, the injury has completely healed, and there is no evidence that the remaining muscles and bones of the jaw are having further problems. The range of motion of the joint is near normal, and the bird is able to eat well and snap at our staff and volunteers with normal-seeming vigor. All medications and treatments have been discontinued, and we are planning to keep the bird a few more weeks to allow any final internal reorganization of the jaw tissue to become as strong as possible before she needs to start plunge diving for dinner out on the ocean again. Meanwhile, she is spending time with other pelicans in our aviary and regaining flight strength and endurance. Release is expected later this month.

December 29, 2012

Birds of 2012: A Tundra Swan Rejoices (January)

As 2012 draws to a close, we’re looking back on some of International Bird Rescue’s most memorable bird patients of the year. Today, we re-visit the treatment and release of a beautiful Tundra Swan in January.

Around 100,000 Tundra Swans migrate along the Pacific Flyway from their Arctic breeding grounds each year to spend the winter in California. On December 16, 2011 one such Swan was found alone on the road in Meridian, north of Sacramento, and brought to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Area center for care.

Hatched just last year, this much-too-thin Tundra Swan was examined upon intake, issued radiographs and found to have a calloused fracture on her right ulna.

At the time, International Bird Rescue was also caring for a lone Mute Swan, and moved them into an aviary together. The two got along beautifully. We kept the young Tundra Swan at the center for two weeks to make sure that her fracture site was stable, and she gained a healthy 600 grams.

As she approached readiness for release, International Bird Rescue contacted the staff at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge to find out if they had seen any flocks of Tundra Swans on refuge lands. While none had been spotted there, the biologist was able to direct us to another location, County Road 162 in Willows; he had seen a big flock of this species that morning.

We followed this promising lead, and at the time of the release were able to audibly confirm the close proximity of other Tundra Swans through the use of one of our wonderful volunteer’s iPhone applications, called iBird.

To watch this release video is to share in the Tundra Swan’s joy when she hears the others and resolutely flies off to chase her second chance.

December 28, 2012

Birds of 2012: Western Screech Owl in Desperate Need (January)

As 2012 draws to a close, we’re looking back on some of International Bird Rescue’s most fascinating case studies of the year. Today, we re-visit one of the most widely discussed stories on our blog: treating a Western Screech Owl that had flown into insulation foam.

A Western Screech Owl with hardened foam on its face and body

On January 5, Santa Clara County’s Injured and Orphaned Wildlife Inc. came to International Bird Rescue with a Western Screech Owl that had suffered an extremely rare and precarious injury: The bird had flown into insulation foam as workers were insulating an attic.

As soon as the patient arrived at our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center, he was examined and stabilized. Our clinic staff administered anesthesia and started to carefully remove some of the foam that was smothering large portions of the owl’s face and body. The bird had been attempting to preen off this toxic material and had ripped a large patch from his chest before he arrived into our care.

The owl under anesthesia

The owl’s nares were very irritated and his eyes were of primary concern. Both of his corneas had large ulcers, and the bird had hard foam both inside and outside his left eyelid (imagine a contact lens made of insulation foam).

Once the life-threatening foam was removed, the Western Screech Owl was returned to Injured and Orphaned Wildlife, where it began devouring mice, clacking at the volunteer caring for it and perching at the highest point of its cage. It was taken to a vet ophthalmologist with wild bird experience to follow up with his numerous eye injuries.

The owl rests after treatment

The owl after emergency care

December 27, 2012

Birds of 2012: The Loon and the Lighthouse (November)

As 2012 draws to a close, we’re looking back on some of International Bird Rescue’s most fascinating case studies of the year. Today, we revisit the story of this Pacific Loon that suffered injuries after it flew into a lighthouse.

A Pacific Loon treated at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Area center. Photo by Jeff Robinson.

It may be hard to believe, but we have actually had injured birds come to us, like a gull that once landed on the roof of our Los Angeles center impaled by a gigantic, three-pronged fishing lure. But the majority of the time, injured and sick birds rely on caring humans to get from where they land or beach themselves to our bird hospitals. There can be stops at other centers along the way for assessment and triage, but because most wildlife care centers in California don’t have the large pools and aviaries needed to properly rehabilitate many aquatic species, they need to get to International Bird Rescue. It is not uncommon for patients to come from hundreds of miles away to get the specialized care our centers provide.

Since they can’t fly or drive themselves, these birds need the equivalent of a bird limo service. We call this volunteer program Wings on Wheels — caring humans willing to drive long distances with a bird companion. If only they counted for the carpool lane!

When a Pacific Loon flew into a lighthouse during a storm in a remote area of Mendocino County (130 miles north of San Francisco), it could have been the end of the line for the beautiful bird. But this loon had luck on her side and a strong will to live. The Point Arena Lighthouse is a historical landmark with an animal-loving manager, Pamela Fitzgerald, who saw the grounded black bird with the beady eyes and razor-sharp bill and was not deterred. She thought the bird was injured because it couldn’t move. One wing appeared to have a slight droop.

Many people don’t know that some water birds can’t walk on land. Physiologically, they’ve evolved to dive, so their legs are far back on their bodies. When they become grounded, it’s commonly assumed that they’re injured, but uninjured grounded birds just need to be put back into water. In this case, it would be impossible to know if this loon was injured without examination by a professional.

The loon’s journey from Point Arena to our San Francisco Bay Area center. Photo by Pamela Fitzgerald.

Pam did the absolute right thing — she contacted IBR for instructions, and with the help of gloves and a blanket, the loon was gently put into a box. Since it was late in the day, nothing could be done except to let the loon rest for the night and find a bird limo driver to get her from the lighthouse to our San Francisco Bay Area center in Fairfield — a long and winding 140-mile drive on mostly back roads.

Banding the loon for release. Photo by Jeff Robinson.

To everyone’s relief, a quick look in the box the next morning found the loon alive. Loons, like many wild animals, can actually die from the stress of capture and confinement, so keeping them in a quiet dark box is the best one can do. Getting the loon to our Bay Area center was another matter. Becky Curtis, who works at the lighthouse, generously offered to make the journey across four counties. And because of the stress factor, her feathered friend would need quiet — no rock music on the drive.

Arriving at IBR late in the evening, the loon was quickly examined and hydrated by intern Sierra Lammers. Since the loon’s waterproofing had been compromised, which can happen if the bird’s feces have stuck to its feathers while in the box, she was put on a comfy donut in a net-bottomed cage to rest the night.

The next morning, an exam by rehab manager Michelle Bellizzi and veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr revealed no broken bones, just the equivalent of a bump and a bruise from crashing into the lighthouse. More fluids and nutrition via a tube, time in a warm-water pool for some feather cleaning and rearranging, and then a warm dryer had this loon at maximum feistiness. Loons are difficult to rehab because they truly hate confinement, so staff wanted as short a stay as possible. Blood work showed that this loon was ready for her silver band, hospital discharge papers and another journey — this time the last — to her ocean home.A shout-out was made for a volunteer, and within moments, Jeff Robinson e-mailed back his eagerness to do a loon release. The loon went back in a box for another long, quiet car ride, this time to Fort Baker near the Golden Gate Bridge. After logging a couple hundred miles and being helped by many caring humans, this feisty girl was released under the bridge where she could easily swim to her natural home — the Pacific Ocean. May you find lots of fish and stay away from lighthouses. —Karen Benzel

This loon has been adopted as part of International Bird Rescue’s Adopt-a-Bird Program. If you would like to adopt a loon or another species we care for, please visit our adoptions page for more information. Adoptions make unique and meaningful gifts and memorials for loved ones and family.

To sign up for IBR’s Northern California Wings on Wheels program, please e-mail us and we’ll get you on our list.

December 26, 2012

Birds of 2012: A Laysan Albatross Returns Home (May)

As 2012 draws to a close, we’re looking back on some of International Bird Rescue’s most fascinating case studies of the year. Today, we revisit the story of this wayward Laysan Albatross from May.

A stowaway albatross on its second return to the ocean

Earlier this year, we told you about a Laysan Albatross that came into the Port of Los Angeles on a ship as a “stowaway” – as they sometimes do – mistaking the vessel as a nesting island. That Albatross was examined, found to be healthy, and with the help of a lifeguard boat, promptly released at sea. With the entire Pacific Ocean to call home, it amazingly made the same mistake again! After landing on another ship, this bird came back into port two months after its first release, and was brought to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Center for evaluation. Our staff, recognizing it by the number on the metal band we’d placed around its leg, quickly re-released this healthy bird in open water, where it would have the long water runway it requires to take flight.

“Broody” Albatrosses, urgently seeking a place to nest, typically show up from March through May. Anyone who raises chickens will know that when a hen becomes broody she will sit on a nest and nothing can get her to move. This hormonal urge overrides all common sense. Albatrosses do essentially the same thing.

Biologists have told me that young, first-time nesting Albatrosses will often venture out and try to colonize new islands. To these inexperienced birds, islands and ships can look a lot alike. Their powerful instinct to nest has them making decisions that are not always in their best interest, and some of the adventures this leads to can be pretty astonishing.The best illustration is probably the story of two Laysan Albatrosses that arrived at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center five years apart. Both birds were banded, taken out to sea and released. As their breeding grounds are a few tiny islands 2,800 miles west of San Francisco, chances were astronomical that these two birds would find one another, become lovebirds, nest on a ship together, and then find their way back into our care.

When they arrived, we recognized them by their band numbers and suspected that they were, in fact, a mated pair because of their behavior and the brood patch on the female’s breast. These aquatic birds were in good health, but not totally waterproof, probably due to their unnatural journey on a ship. We kept them in care until their feathers were back in perfect condition. The pair was then released again at sea to continue their lives together.

International Bird Rescue is committed to ensuring that the animals in our care stay wild. When they falter, we are happy to give them a helping hand, but we are also careful to do everything in our power to make sure that these birds have the freedom to make their own choices, and ultimately find their own way to thrive in the wild. Like humans in need, animals in need are called patients for a reason, and International Bird Rescue is happy to be just as patient with our returning birds as we are with first timers – every bird matters, and every bird has its own path back into the wild.

Thank you for continuing to help us offer the aquatic birds and seabirds that arrive at our centers the help they deserve to set off on their individual paths with the best possible chance of continued health and a wild life.

December 23, 2012

THANK YOU for your support!

Red-throated Loon in care at International Bird Rescue. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Dear friend,

As 2012 draws to a close, we are so thankful for all the support from our donors. You sustain our mission, which has always been, and will always be, to help aquatic birds in need — one animal at a time. We couldn’t do our work without you, and for that we are truly grateful this holiday season.

In the New Year, your gift will help us to:

Care for injured birds 365 days a year. These days, there is no “slow season” for International Bird Rescue’s wildlife care centers. Our devoted staff is inundated with multiple challenges each month, from large influxes of starving Brown Pelicans, to loons oiled by spills or grounded by fierce storms, to rare injuries suffered by some of the world’s most beautiful birds — including this tiny Western Screech Owl, who earlier this year had flown into insulation foam as workers were insulating an attic in California’s Santa Clara County.

Give orphaned birds a chance. Each spring, our incubators become orphanages, as we receive hundreds of chicks brought to us by the public. Mallard ducklings, Western Gull chicks, even young Killdeer and Common Murres are given world-class care  and a second chance. Stay tuned for videos of the coming oprhaned bird season, (for now, here’s an irresistible video from this year of puppet-feeding an adorable Black-crowned Night Heron).

Brown Pelican release this Fall 2012. Photo by Bryon Chin

Study survival rates, post-rehabilitation. With our Blue-Banded Pelican program, we keep track of the birds we’ve cared for and released back to nature. And we welcome your participation! If you see a Brown Pelican with a blue leg band, you can report your sighting on our website. The more data on these birds, the better!

And we are always committed to showing you how your donations help International Bird Rescue’s mission from every angle. There’s a lot in store for 2013. Here are just some of the ways you can find out more about our work:

-Visit our blog — for beautiful photography, for video of bird releases that never fail to inspire, and for important news updates on aquatic bird conservation. It’s a great way to get in touch with wildlife — even if it’s at your office desk.

-Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. Over 24,000 bird lovers can’t be wrong; join us!

-Crazy for Pinterest? We’ve been busy pinning away on our new page— it’s one of our favorite ways to share with you photos of International Bird Rescue’s precious patients.

Warmest wishes this holiday season,

Andrew Harmon
Board of Directors

P.S. Looking for a last-minute gift? With our honorary bird adoption program, we can send a PDF adoption certificate, personalized with your gift recipient’s name. It looks great on the iPhone, iPad and other personal devices! Find out more about your tax-deductible gift here.

“Beneath the daily overburden, our truer nature is this wandering spirit on expansive wings, hungering for a chance to search new horizons, to hurtle along with the wind, taking chances, taking the world as it comes, making tracks that will endure only in our memory, forming our personal map of life and time.” —Carl Safina, Eye of the Albatross



December 22, 2012

Catching Up with One of Our Most Memorable Interns: Jared Harding of South Africa

Jared Harding at the South Africa Marine Rehabilitation and Education Center (SAMREC)

When International Bird Rescue began going out into the world to respond to oil spills, we started to meet amazing, wonderful people. Many of them wanted to know where they could go to get the training that our oil spill response team had, as those resources were not available to them. Recognizing how desperate they were for this experience, I invited anyone who wanted to learn about aquatic bird rehabilitation to visit one of our California rehabilitation facilities.

Immersing yourself in a rehabilitation setting is the only way you can learn these skills and get a sense of what is needed to do this type of work. Thus, our International Internship Program was born simply because there was a need for it. Since its official inception in 2000, we have had over 75 interns representing 14 countries. They are now part of our international response team, and many of them stay in touch with us and respond to oil spills and other emergencies with us when needed.

Jared Harding of South Africa is one of our past interns who took his internship experience and went on to help penguins and other wild animals in his country. I recently caught up with Jared and asked him to share with us what he’s been up to since his internship and how it helped him in his life:


Jay Holcomb, director of International Bird Rescue: Hi Jared, first tell us a little about yourself.

Jared Harding: I was born in Durban, South Africa, and my family relocated to Port Elizabeth in 1990.

I started my schooling career at Cape Recife High School, where my biggest challenge in life was being able to speak, as I only started speaking at the age of 4 years. My parents and I were advised that I would have to possibly learn sign language, and wow, they were wrong, as now I can’t keep quiet.

In Grade 7, I became Deputy Head Boy and was 1st Team Chess Captain (from Grade 5 in 1996 to Grade 12 in 2003). I always succeeded in school and always tried to achieve the very best. In 2002, I was awarded the highest award in Scouting, the Springbok Scout, and this was the first time in years that a scout from the Algoa Sea Scout Troop was awarded this amazing award. In 2003, I was awarded the Achiever of the Year and Matric of the Year. I also received my school colors. After my final exams in Grade 12, I received a matric with an endorsement.

Currently, I am the curator of Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation and Awareness Centre in Plettenburg Bay, South Africa. Tenikwa Rehabilitation Centre is one of the few wildlife rehabilitation centres in South Africa that accepts marine as well as terrestrial species. They are treated, cared for, and when ready, returned to the wild where they belong. The Rehabilitation Centre is a non-profit organization that receives no government funding. It relies on admission fees and public donations to carry out its conservation work.

The Rehabilitation Centre consists of a hospital, indoor treatment and intensive care area, hospital cages, rehabilitation enclosures and large pre-release enclosures where the animals are prepared for their return to the wild. Since the centre receives so many diverse species, it needs to remain flexible in design and function, so each species admitted undergoes a customized rehabilitation and release strategy.

Prior to Tenikwa, I was Animal Manager at the South Africa Marine Rehabilitation and Education Center (SAMREC) from 2009 to July 2012. Before that I worked for the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism-Marine and Coastal Management from 2008 to 2009. I’ve also worked for Ajubatus Marine Rescue-Penguins Eastern Cape and the Animal Welfare Society-Port Elizabeth.

Harding cleaning a pelican cage at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Area center, 2004

What brought you to International Bird Rescue and wildlife rehabilitation?

I heard about International Bird Rescue and I knew then that I should apply, and wow, I was accepted. It was the best experience ever.

What were the months and year that you did your internship with us?

August through October of 2004.

What did you learn or take away from your internship experience?

I learned a lot about wildlife rehabilitation, and this has opened so many doors for me, but I wish that I could go back to International Bird Rescue because the staff at the Fairfield facility is amazing.

How did the internship and the skills and knowledge you gained with us help you in your career or life?

I have since run three rehabilitation centres: Penguins Eastern Cape, SAMREC and now currently running Tenikwa.

What would be an example of new skills that you learned with us?

Everything that I learned at International Bird Rescue has been beneficial to my current career, but I think that the most amazing thing that I learned was being able to take blood samples as well as being able to assess an injured animal.

What was the most challenging part of your internship?

Being able to wash oiled cormorants, as they are such a stressful animal.

Which species did you learn about and work with, and which were your favorite or most challenging?

Common Murres, American Bitterns (scary!), Canada Geese, grebes, mallards, egrets, cormorants … Wow, it was such a long time ago!

Anything else you want to share about your experience or the people you worked with at International Bird Rescue?

The staff are amazing and I loved every moment of my internship, I wish I could come back…

Has there been a specific patient whose story especially touched you?

Yes, we admitted a Canada Goose for a certain reason, but unfortunately we found him drowned the following morning in one of the heated warm-water pools in the main hospital area. But when [SF Bay Area center manager] Michelle and I were checking on all the other patients, we then came back to pick up the dead bird, and it moved. Wow, Michelle and I ran to the lab to get oxygen and we brought him back to life. We named him Lazarus.

 What do you think is the most valuable aspect of Bird Rescue’s  internship program?

That I was able to attend an Oiled Wildlife Care Network advanced oiled wildlife course. My dream is still to be able to assist with an international oil spill.

Have you responded to any spills with us?

I have not responded to any spills, but I wish one day I will be able to…. THIS IS MY DREAM.

We welcome people from all countries to come and learn at one of our rehabilitation programs. For information on our International Internship Program, visit www.bird-rescue.org/get-involved/internships-employment.aspx

December 21, 2012

A Local Boy Scout’s Ambitious Project for the Pelicans

Christopher Borrayo-Cruz of Orange County Council’s Troop #1149. Photo by Jenny Nguyen.

A few months ago, Christopher Borrayo-Cruz, a local Boy Scout in Troop #1149 of Anaheim, approached us with a simple goal: He wanted to help out animals in need.

And we were immediately thrilled with his enthusiasm. So International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center staff worked with Borrayo-Cruz to channel his energy into an ambitious Eagle Scout Project: building a series of innovative pelican drying pens for oiled birds.

With the help of family, friends, and fellow scouts in Troops #1149 and #270, Borrayo-Cruz constructed many of these drying pens, and as you can see from the photos, the project’s standards were extremely high. These are first-rate pens of professional quality. What’s more, Borrayo-Cruz solicited an extensive network of area businesses and organizations to donate all materials needed for their construction.

Here’s the backstory on the project:

The idea

Borrayo-Cruz: For my Eagle project, I wanted to build habitats for rescued animals. So I went on the computer and started researching places on Google that could support that idea. I came across International Bird Rescue’s website and called them up.

The project took a long time, one to two-and-a-half months. … We had to find supplies that would actually hold up. I didn’t want to just build the center pens and not be able to use them for a very long time.

Delivery day for the pens at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center in San Pedro. Photo by Jenny Nguyen.

The support

The companies I asked to help out with donations are: Home Depot, West Marine, Loews, Hillco Fastener Warehouse, Christensen Net Works, Ganahl Lumber, Orange Coast Hardware & Lumber, Caster Technology Corporation, A-1 Foam & Fabrics, Mr. & Mrs. T.C. Chen, and Daughters of the American Revolution.

Borrayo-Cruz with International Bird Rescue rehabilitation technician Marianne Dominguez. Photo by Jenny Nguyen.

The final product

I’m proud of the whole project — the pens turned out fantastic, and it was awesome just to see the whole center really stoked when I delivered them. They were like little kids on Christmas morning. I learned a bunch about the birds, and how the world would be affected if the center weren’t there. A lot of the birds would be gone. I wish more people knew about the center so they would be aware and could help out as well.

Members of Orange County Council’s Troop #1149 tour International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center. Photo by Jenny Nguyen.

Interested in volunteering your time and talent for International Bird Rescue? Find out more on volunteer opportunities here.

For information on youth outreach opportunities, please e-mail us.

December 19, 2012

In Care This Week, Los Angeles

Among the 48 birds in care (by last count) at our Los Angeles center: this beautiful male Bufflehead, treated for a wing laceration, and two American White Pelicans — one of them found injured earlier this month in the Simi Valley area, the other found in Downey.

On December 1, we successfully released another American White Pelican that had been tangled in fishing line and unable to fly. The bird was released back to its pod at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve.

Bucephala albeola

American White Pelican
Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

Photos by Neil Uelman

Please consider making a donation to support the care and rehabilitation of these wonderful birds! birdrescue.org/donate


December 17, 2012

In Memory of Rich Stallcup, Legendary Bird Lover

Earlier today, Audubon California, Bay Nature, PRBO and other organizations/publications reported the recent passing of PRBO Conservation ornithologist and renowned California birder Rich Stallcup (shown here with partner Heather Cameron, photo by Juliet Grable at Bay Nature). International Bird Rescue director Jay Holcomb has this remembrance:

In order to protect wildlife and nature, you have to love them. Then, through enthusiastic sharing and teaching about what you love, you can’t help but inspire change, both in people’s lives and in the policies that protect what you are devoted to.

That is exactly what Rich Stallcup did in his life. His absolute devotion and love for nature, and birds in particular, evoked many changes and taught us about the important things in life: being in harmony with nature, protecting it and seeing its value and beauty.

Rich passed away last week, and International Bird Rescue would like to recognize his vision, leadership and contribution to nature conservation. Rich was a founder of Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) and served on its board of directors. He was also president of Western Field Ornithologists, regional editor for American Birds and a member of the California Bird Records Committee.

Rich published many scientific papers, four books about birds and 60 “Focus” articles in PRBO’s newsletter, the Observer. From 1976 to 1988, Rich was an owner and tour leader for WINGS birding tours and led many PRBO tours prior to that. In 2002, the American Birding Association presented Rich with the Ludlow Griscom Award for outstanding contributions to American ornithology. In his later years, he served as PRBO’s naturalist and worked with the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Beach Watch Program (in 1998 he was even designated “Star of the Sanctuary” for Cordell Bank).

What a legacy — for the birds in our world and the people who love them. We’ll miss you, Rich.

December 17, 2012

A Pelican Survives Over a Decade After Rehabilitation

Photo from International Bird Rescue archives

In 2001, we responded to an oil spill in the Dominguez Channel at the Port of Los Angeles. The spill was relatively small, and we captured only 13 oiled birds: one gull, two domestic ducks and 10 Brown Pelicans.

Inset photo: WildRescue founder Rebecca Dmytryk with an oiled pelican. Map courtesy Google Maps.

Most of the pelicans we had to bait in with fish scraps in order to capture (this is the only time we ever feed pelicans in the wild). Three of the pelicans unfortunately had to be euthanized due to previous injuries, but seven oiled and rehabilitated pelicans were released on January 10, 2001 in nearby San Pedro.

On November 22, 2012, we received confirmation that one of those pelicans, 0559-28561, was found dead near Oyehut in Washington state’s Grays Harbor County. Like an oiled King Eider that we had rehabilitated 16 years ago that was hunted earlier this year in Alaska (the hunter returned its federal band), this pelican band recovery is equally important. The pelican lived for over 10 years after its rehabilitation, adding more evidence to the ever-growing data that we collect regarding the survival of oiled rehabilitated birds.

Have you seen a Blue-Banded Pelican? Report your sighting here.

December 16, 2012

The best gift? An experience.



By becoming a Pelican Partner or adopting a bird you are saving lives and making a difference.

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Years ago a friend told me she had asked her husband to stop buying expensive jewelry and other “things” for special occasions. What she wanted were experiences – memories.

The people who become Pelican Partners tell us that releasing their pelican was one of the most profoundly moving experiences of their life.
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I chose to become a Pelican Partner as a way of celebrating my mother’s life and her love for animals. Even though my work with Bird Rescue gave me the opportunity to release other birds back to the wild, the pelican I released in honor of my mother was the most memorable of my life. Now, instead of remembering the difficulty of my mother’s passing, I remember my mom flying on the back of a pelican that majestically flew off with the two others that I had the privilege of releasing that day. It was a powerfully healing experience, one that I am forever grateful for that brings tears to my eyes to this day. Now when I see pelicans soaring overhead, I think about my mom and wonder if that is her pelican!

As a Pelican Partner, you also receive a behind-the-scenes tour of one of our wildlife hospitals. This VIP view into our work includes watching your pelican receive its federal leg band and blue leg band (with an easy to read number) that identify your pelican for life. Imagine the delight of spotting your pelican in the wild. Now that is a unique experience!

International Bird Rescue’s Pelican Partnership is a very special way to honor someone you love. This year, give an experience of a lifetime that also helps save lives.

On behalf of all of us at International Bird Rescue, we wish you and yours a very joyous holiday season.

Karen Benzel
Public Affairs/Media Director

P.S. – Every donation matters to the thousands of seabirds needing care in our hospitals each year. Please remember to make your tax-deductible gift today!




December 13, 2012

Birds in Care this Week

Here are the four most common species in care, by latest count:

This week’s full list of birds in care by latest count:

International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center
82 Birds in Care

32 Brown Pelicans
18 Western Grebes
9 Northern Fulmars
3 Western Gulls
3 Eared Grebes
3 Common Murres
2 Horned Grebes
1 Pacific Loon
1 Black-crowned Night Heron
1 California Gull
1 Canada Goose
1 Ring-billed Gull
1 Glaucous-winged Gull
1 Clark’s Grebe
1 Great Blue Heron
1 Herring Gull
1 Hybrid Duck
1 Pied-billed Grebe
1 Red-throated Loon

International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center
61 Birds in Care

27 Brown Pelicans
14 Western Grebes
5 Eared Grebes
3 Western Gulls
2 Common Murres
2 California Gulls
2 Brandt’s Cormorants
2 American White Pelicans
1 Sora Rail
1 Pacific Loon
1 Northern Fulmar
1 Clark’s Grebe

Total birds in care: 143

December 12, 2012

Western Grebe with Fish Hook Injuries

Yet another innocent bird injured by fish hooks — in this case, a Western Grebe with hook injuries in her back, leg and mouth. Staff at our San Francisco Bay Area center have removed the hooks, and the bird is recovering, though has a long way to go. (Photo by Isabel Luevano.)

This holiday season, we are offering honorary adoptions starting at just $25 that make wonderful gifts for the wildlife lovers in your life. Help support this bird’s recovery: Find out about our Adopt-a-Bird program here.