Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for December 2012

December 11, 2012

Recent Releases: Bufflehead and Greater Scaup

Bufflehead photos by Cheryl Reynolds

Last week, we posted about this beautiful male Bufflehead found grounded by a storm on a San Francisco street. After treatment at our San Francisco Bay Area center, this bird is back to health and was released Monday at Berkeley Marina.

Want to learn more about North America’s smallest diving duck? Check out the Bufflehead profile on AllAboutBirds.org.

Late last week, we also released a Greater Scaup in the San Pablo Bay (photo below), one also a victim of recent storms in Northern California.

Why are these birds and other species such as grebes adversely affected by strong storms? Find out more here at Birdrescue.org.

Photo by Isabel Luevano; inset photo by Cheryl Reynolds

December 11, 2012

News Round-Up, December 11

What’s new?

—Wired magazine features videos and backstory of an amazing project documenting birds-of-paradise (photo above by wildlife photographer Tim Laman). [Wired]

—Our Blue-Banded Pelican Project is featured in the Malibu Times, with info on the current sighting contest that continues through early January. [Malibu Times]

—The OC Weekly takes a look at migratory visitors in Southern California this time of year, including Yellow-rumped Warblers and White-crowned Sparrows. [OC Weekly]

—Via Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels: “Wisdom, the now 62-year old Laysan Albatross, is once more back on Sand Island in the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and has laid her latest egg, now being incubated by her partner.” [Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels website; more info and great photos from Midway at the blog Pete at Midway]

—Conservationists consider the potential impact of the Farm Bill on migratory waterfowl habitat in the Upper Midwest. [New York Times]

—In a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers find that Eurasian Jays have developed strategies to minimize noise while hiding, or “caching” their food supplies to avoid having them stolen by other birds. [New York Times]

—The 113th annual Christmas Bird Count begins this Friday and continues through January 5, 2013. [National Audubon Society]

—Via National Geographic, more evidence of acidification in the Southern Ocean. [Ocean Views blog]

December 9, 2012

How a Pelican Changed My Life

Dear Friend,

In the 1970s, the California Brown Pelican was an endangered species, and it was rare to see them in wildlife rehabilitation centers, as their numbers were dangerously low. Before I came to International Bird Rescue, I worked with a local group that also rehabilitated seabirds. When I first started there, I was introduced to Groucho, a beautiful female Brown Pelican who had suffered a severe wing injury and had her wing amputated as a result. She was a permanent resident, and it was through my relationship with her that I began to understand and love pelicans — especially Groucho.

Groucho lived in a large pen with a round, in-ground pool and some other seabirds — and eventually another pelican — as her companions. She was always friendly to me and wanted to interact when I was feeding or cleaning the cage. After work or during breaks when no one was around, I would sit in the pen and watch her, as I was fascinated with how she was designed, how she could turn her pouch inside out, and particularly how she could use the hook on the end of her bill, either as a deadly weapon or as something so gentle and delicate that she could pick up the tiniest blade of grass and hand it to me, talking all the time in a sort of huff-huff sound that pelicans make.

My greatest surprise was when she started climbing up onto my lap when I was sitting there. She would perch on my leg, preen herself, preen my hair and skin with that gentle hook, nibble on my ears and eyelashes, and she would eventually lay down and fall asleep on my leg, just like it was as natural as sitting on a rock. She was as curious about me as I was about her. I was surprised by this at first, but it was through these interactions with Groucho that I really came to know that birds may look like other birds of the same species, but each one has its own distinct personality traits, likes and dislikes. They are individuals with their own purpose, not just members of a flock.

I enjoyed many years of this personal and intimate relationship with Groucho until she eventually passed away. That was a sad day for all of us, as she had touched everyone’s heart with her beauty, her take on life and her willingness to be vulnerable with us. A dear artist friend of mine who knew of our unique relationship painted this picture of her for me, as he recognized what Groucho meant to me. To this day, that picture hangs in the doorway to my house.

In 1978, we were lucky to see two pelicans a year in rehab. This year, International Bird Rescue has taken in over 950 Brown Pelicans, and I absolutely know that every one of them is a unique individual, just like Groucho. IBR has taken on tremendous responsibility with all these birds, and I want to make sure that these descendants of Groucho and other birds will always have an opportunity for a second chance when they need help from us, their human family.

That’s why I decided to become a sustaining member of IBR, so that I could financially contribute to the care of pelicans and all the other birds that really need our help. As a sustaining member, my donation is charged monthly to my credit card, and I don’t have to worry about forgetting to send a check. I easily spend $25 a month on many not-so-important things, so I made the commitment to give that amount to the birds each month in this way. At this level of support, by year’s end I’ll have given $300 that I know will go directly to animals that need our help.

I invite you to join me in becoming a member of IBR at whatever level you can afford. When times are tough, I’ve always depended on our sustaining members to provide a funding base for our work. As director, this has always been important to me as I planned for the year ahead — and I am grateful for our members because of this.

When our tag line, “Every Bird Matters,” was presented to me a few years back, I immediately liked it and thought of the magical years that I spent with Groucho. Being looked in the eye, just inches away, by a pelican is a humbling experience, especially when you know that this being has no judgment or criticism of you despite what has happened to them. That was a gift that I will never forget, and it changed me in ways that I cannot express. Let me tell you from experience: Every single, individual bird matters! I hope you will join me in preserving these deserving creatures by becoming a member of IBR and making it possible for them to receive the care they deserve.

Best wishes this holiday season,

Jay Holcomb
Director, International Bird Rescue


December 9, 2012

Blue-Banded Pelican Contest: Clue #4

Photo by Bill Steinkamp

In last week’s clue for our current Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest, we talked about pelicans commonly found on sandbars in bays or at the mouths of rivers. (What’s this contest all about? Click on the link above to find out.)

So here’s clue #4, and it’s an easier place to spot them: Go to any of the harbors where there are fishing boats, piers or anything to do with fish. Some of the best places to see pelicans (and possibly encounter Blue-Banded Pelicans) are Fisherman’s Wharf Monterey, Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, and all the wharfs and piers in Bodega Bay and elsewhere in Northern California. (Blue-Banded Pelican K15 is called the “Mascot of the Pacifica Pier” by some people because he hangs out there.)

In the L.A. area, the Redondo Pier and many others along the Southern California coast are also good bets.

In Washington, some of our banded pelicans have been seen in Westport at the boat docks. If you’re in Oregon, they’ve been spotted in places like Brookings at fish-cleaning stations on many docks.

Many of the Blue-Banded Pelicans that have been reported this year to us have been seen in these areas. Check them out!

Below, you’ll find all three previous clues for this contest, which ends in early January. Thanks to Eagle Optics for providing the grand-prize binoculars!

Clue #1

Clue #2

Clue #3


Photo by Julie Matsuura

December 7, 2012

Current Birds in Care

Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

This week, we’re caring for a dizzying variety of species  — including five Northern Fulmars at our San Francisco Bay Area center. Other birds in care include a Bufflehead, a Red-necked Grebe, a Sora, an American White Pelican and two Red-throated Loons in beautiful plumage.

A significant number of these birds currently require frequent treatment, including wound care, water therapy and medications. We could use your help this week. Will you step up at birdrescue.org/donate for these animals?

Want to see these birds up close? Learn more about our volunteer program here.

Here’s the complete list of birds in care this week:

55 Brown Pelicans
38 Western Grebes
5 Eared Grebes
5 Northern Fulmars
4 Common Murres
4 Pacific Loons
4 Western Gulls
3 Horned Grebes
2 Red-throated Loons
2 California Gulls
1 Sora
1 Red-necked Phalarope
1 American White Pelican
1 Bufflehead
1 Glaucous-winged Gull
1 Clark’s Grebe
1 Ring-billed Gull
1 Canada Goose
1 Black-crowned Night Heron
1 Double-crested Cormorant
1 Common Loon
1 Red-necked Grebe

Total birds in care: 134

December 4, 2012

A Bufflehead Caught in the Storm

Photos by Isabel Luevano

Among the birds in care this week at our Bay Area center is this male Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) found on a San Francisco street in the aftermath of weekend storms. Rehabilitation technician Isabel Luevano notes that the bird had some minor abrasions on his feet from being on the road but is quickly regaining strength and is heading toward release.

December 3, 2012

Encore: Pelican Release, Dec. 1 at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve

White Pelican release, all images by Mike Stensvold © 2012

Mike Stensvold sent us these fantastic shots of Saturday’s White Pelican release at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve. Boy Scouts from Troop #1149 of the Orange County Council were also on hand to help give these magnificent animals a send-off back into the wild!

© 2012 Mike Stensvold

December 3, 2012

The ultimate holiday stocking stuffer for wildlife lovers!

Dear Friends,

I’ll never forget the first time I tube-fed a wild bird. It was a Western Grebe — big and beautiful with fierce red eyes, but oiled, sick, very noisy and not exactly happy to see me. I was a fairly new volunteer at International Bird Rescue’s care center in Los Angeles. Staring down at this bird with a temporary leg band labeled R67, I felt the kind of dread that usually comes with final exams and root canals.

Western Grebe recovers at San Francisco Bay Center pool. Photo by Isabel Luevano

But with the expert guidance and support of a mentor volunteer, I succeeded with the tubing. And I had to adopt this bird to celebrate.

International Bird Rescue’s Adopt-a-Bird program is a wonderfully symbolic way to support a variety of birds cared for by our non-profit — some 5,000 have been treated in just the past year alone. Adoptions make unforgettable holiday gifts for all the wildlife lovers in your life.

How do adoptions work? Simple. Just click here for our adoptions page to get started. There are several species of birds and giving levels to choose from, starting at just $25. And your gift is tax-deductible.

With your gift, we’ll send you an official adoption certificate. You can email it, print it out and send to a loved one, or we can create a personalized certificate in full color and mail wherever you’d like us to send it (please make your adoption by December 15 so we can make sure to send in time for the holidays).

R67 was healthy and ready for release a few weeks later, thanks to the teamwork that makes International Bird Rescue so exemplary. I remember placing him back in the water and grinning as he quickly dove out of sight, accompanied by several of his friends and Catalina Island floating out in the distance. My dread had given way to joy.

Warmest wishes this holiday season,

Andrew Harmon
Board of Directors
International Bird Rescue

P.S. — There are many ways to support International Bird Rescue’s work, which has never been more critical for wildlife in need. Find out more at birdrescue.org.

December 3, 2012

The Release Files: An American White Pelican Returns to Flight

An American White Pelican takes flight after weeks of rehabilitation at International Bird Rescue. Photos by James Hanlon, © 2012.

Happy Monday to all our loyal blog fans!

As we announced on Friday, our wonderful staff and volunteers at our San Pedro center have been caring for an American White Pelican rescued several weeks ago, having been found injured and wrapped in fishing line at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve in the San Fernando Valley. This bird came into our care through amazing teamwork that included the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society, the Los Angeles Specialized Mobile Animal Rescue Team (SMART) and wildlife photographer and naturalist James Hanlon.

We were thrilled to release this bird – as well as a fellow White Pelican companion also treated at our center — on Saturday at the wildlife reserve’s tranquil lake. Many bird lovers were on hand for this special event (read news items on the release via the Associated Press and local coverage from the Encino-Tarzana Patch).

Jim Hanlon took several great photos of this release. Read his personal story of the experience here.

Did you attend and take photos or video? We’d love to hear from you and share your snapshots on our Facebook page. Email us!

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.