Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for January 2013

January 30, 2013

Blue-Banded Pelicans in Flight


When people report banded pelican sightings, they often photograph them and generously share these images with us. There’s nothing like watching pelicans soar through the air, whether high above in formation or with the tips of their wings nearly touching the waves. Looking like gentle and graceful dinosaurs, they’re mesmerizing to watch. We wanted to share a few of these recent images with you along with their stories. Enjoy!


On July 28, 2012, Michael Ayers was visiting San Francisco and spent some time at the famous Cliff House, adjacent to the equally famous Bird Rock — a roosting spot for many seabirds and sea lions. Michael noticed some pelicans flying overhead, one with a blue band, and snapped some photos (see above). When he returned home and looked at his images, he saw two blue-banded juvenile pelicans. They were M87 and M91, and both had just been released hours earlier at Ft. Baker on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge – about five miles as the pelican flies from where the pictures were taken. Both of these birds came into our San Francisco Bay Area rehabilitation center on July 5 and were thin and weak, something we see often with these young birds trying to make it in their first year of life.


On December 5, 2012, Kristin McCleery, who by boat looks for changes in bird activity around the San Francisco Bay Bridge, noticed that one of the Brown Pelicans flying by had a blue band on, and took a few photographs as well. That bird was P11, a first-year pelican that came into our San Francisco Bay Area center on November 5 with a few injuries and in generally poor shape. It was rehabilitated and released on November 19 at Ft. Baker. Check out this close-up of a healthy-looking P11 flying by Kristin, 17 days after its release.

Pelican, Brn C34 Flying - Steinkamp 1
Meanwhile, in Southern California C34 is a beautiful adult Brown Pelican and one of our most famous birds. This bird came to our Los Angeles center on October 13, 2009 with fishing tackle injuries. It was rehabilitated and released in San Pedro on November 6, 2009 and spends most of its time at the Redondo Beach Pier where it hangs out and gets fed fish scraps. It has been reported over 25 times to us since its release. This image of the bird flying over the water was taken last month by Bill Steinkamp, one of our volunteer photographers. We strongly discourage the feeding of pelicans or any wildlife, as it habituates them to humans and makes them more vulnerable to fishing tackle injuries. C34 is very capable of caring for itself but it loves the fish scraps from fishermen.

Pelican T77 came into our Los Angeles center weak and thin on November 25, 2012. We regularly get these skinny and weak adult pelicans, and even though we test them for many possible problems, we sometimes cannot really detect what is wrong with them. We rehydrate and feed them and get them back to a healthy state, and once they pass their release evaluation, they are returned to the wild. After over a month of care at our center, T77 was released on December 31, 2012 in San Pedro. Last week, 21 days after its release, this photograph was taken of T77 from the deck of the Monterey Bay Aquarium by Byron Chin. Our data indicate that many of our birds move quickly up and down the coastline, and within days of release they can be hundreds of miles away from where they were released.

Have you seen a Blue-Banded Pelican? You can report your sighting here. We’d love to hear from you.

January 29, 2013

Is your organization a Pelican Partner? Redbud Audubon Society is!

Our daily “thank you!” goes to the good people at Redbud Audubon Society in Lake County, a dependable Pelican Partner of our San Francisco Bay Area center in Pelican Partner -Redbud AudubonCordelia. This Audubon chapter partnered up with pelican #P38, which came to us contaminated and thin from San Francisco’s Pier 39. While in care, the bird was washed, given proper nutrition and treated for minor wounds prior to release.

What’s a Pelican Partner? Starting at just $500, your organization will have the pleasure of a VIP tour at one of our California centers, an official certificate of your sponsorship (see an example here to the right) and a unique pelican release experience — a moving experience by any measure.

This program is a wonderful way for your company or organization to give back to local wildlife in need.

Want to find out more? Visit our Pelican Partner webpage.

International Bird Rescue volunteer Jeff Robinson gives Redbud Audubon Society’s Carol Lincoln a tour of the San Francisco Bay Area center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

P38’s blue band and federal bands. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

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P38’s release evaluation. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

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Carol Lincoln’s pelican release of P38 and a fellow Blue-Banded Pelican. Photo by Jeff Robinson.

January 29, 2013

A Laysan Albatross returns to sea

This Laysan Albatross was recently evaluated and released by International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife care center team. Photos by Paul Berry.

“Big birds in big oceans, albatrosses lead big, sprawling lives across space and time, traveling to the limits of seemingly limitless seas,” Pulitzer Prize-winning Guadalupemapauthor Carl Safina wrote in the 2002 classic Eye of the Albatross. “They accomplish these distances by wielding the impressive — wondrous, really — body architecture of creatures built to glide indefinitely.”

Seeing these magnificent animals up close, it’s not difficult to see where Safina got the inspiration for this prose.

Though Laysan Albatrosses breed primarily in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a breeding colony exists on Mexico’s Guadalupe Island, located off the coast of Baja California and more than 200 miles due south of Los Angeles (see map right). They are occasionally seen at our Los Angeles center, sometimes having been found as “stowaways” on cargo ships.

On Saturday, an animal control officer brought to us a Laysan Albatross wrapped in a towel; the bird had been taken to the San Pedro Animal Shelter by an unidentified member of the public.

The albatross in a pelagic pool at International Bird Rescue prior to release.


This albatross was given a full evaluation by staff. Deemed healthy, it was placed in an outdoor pelagic pool overnight, and the following day, the albatross was banded and loaded into a crate for release.




In the video below, International Bird Rescue rehabilitation technician Kelly Berry releases the albatross past the breakwaters with the help of the lifeguards at Cabrillo Beach.

“Not only is it an absolutely beautiful bird, but it was a beautiful sight to watch it fly off toward the open ocean,” Berry notes. “Overall, it was a success.”


Nearly a year ago to the day, our L.A. center released an albatross that had been a stowaway on a ship. Read more on this previous patient here.

January 28, 2013

Up for a wash: At our Los Angeles center, a busy day with oiled seabirds

An oiled Common Murre up for a wash. Photos and video by Bill Steinkamp, all rights reserved.

On a recent afternoon, a team of staff and volunteers at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife care center had their hands full with oiled Common Murres and Western Grebes in need of a wash. Over the past few years, the center has seen an increase in the number of oiled seabirds such as Common Murres affected in part by natural seepage off the coast.

When a bird becomes oiled, its feathers can mat and separate, exposing the animal’s sensitive skin to temperature extremes. After collection, each oiled bird is stabilized, which includes nutrition, hydration, and medical treatment before it is considered for a wash, as unstable birds may die from the resulting stress of the procedure. Once stable, an oiled bird goes through a series of tub washes with a low concentration of DAWN dishwashing liquid in clean water.

After washing, the bird is taken to a separate rinsing area where a special nozzle is used to completely rinse the solution, as any detergent or solution left on its feathers can impair waterproofing. The bird is then placed in a protective, net-bottomed pen equipped with commercial pet grooming dryers, where it will begin to preen its feathers back into place. A tight overlapping pattern of the feathers creates a natural waterproof seal, which enables the bird to maintain its body temperature and remain buoyant in the water.

Post-wash, rehabilitation staff closely monitor a bird’s waterproofing as it recovers in warm and then cold water pools.

Bill Steinkamp, one of our volunteer photographers, took these wonderful photographs of the hard work required to treat these animals.

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January 25, 2013

A German student’s design for wildlife justice

Franziska Müller’s entry in the Corbis Images’ Make Your Mark-Design for a Cause competition. Click to enlarge.


A few months ago, we received a wonderful e-mail from Franziska Müller, a graphic design student in Germany with an intriguing request: Could we lend our International Bird Rescue logo for a design competition she had entered?

What resulted from the chance introduction is this compelling pelican image, titled “We have to help where our waste causes pain,” and it was recently shortlisted in the annual “Make Your Mark-Design for a Cause” competition sponsored by Corbis Images. Müller won a Wacom digital drawing tablet for the shortlist honor.

Given that so many animals come to our wildlife rehabilitation centers with injuries caused by marine pollution, we were instantly drawn to the powerful image Müller created and the incontrovertible truth it proclaims: Consumer culture has its consequences, and it’s up to us to mitigate them wherever possible.

Müller recently filled us in about her work and the origins of this design project:

Müller: I am a 23-year-old student of communication design in Hamburg, Germany, currently in my sixth semester. A few weeks ago, I discovered the Corbis “Make Your Mark-Design for a Cause” contest on the Internet. I wanted to take part because I love helping others with my job if there is a possibility.

The stock photo agency Corbis provided some picture material, but the cause you had to choose on your own.

There are so many problems around the world that people often can’t decide where they should help, so they do nothing, or they often want to help children. But animals are almost always overlooked.

So I searched online about wildlife organizations and discovered International Bird Rescue. I have to admit that I had not heard about this organization before. So I read about their very professional work and I was absolutely delighted with it — especially with their slogan “Every Bird Matters,” because I agree with this opinion, that every animal has the right to individual help. We people cause their pain, so we should feel accountable for them. Sadly, you can’t help every animal on earth, but you have to start somewhere. And it’s amazing how many birds get a second chance because of IBR.

After I chose International Bird Rescue, I promptly had the idea of a pelican consisting of garbage, a bit like origami, and standing in oil-polluted sand. I added a helping hand to symbolize that even this very small bird matters.

I am very glad to get to know this great organization and I wish them all the very best!


We are always looking for volunteer creative talent to help us get the spirit of International Bird Rescue’s “Every Bird Matters” mission out to the world. If you’re a photographer, graphic artist or illustrator and you’d like to help, please contact us. Thank you!

January 24, 2013

News round-up, January 24

Photo via Hispanically-Speaking News

What’s new? Another round of animal die-offs on the coast of Peru include Brown Pelicans, critter cams abound in the avian world, and a controversial campaign to save native birds in New Zealand from domestic cat predation.

— In Peru, a die-off of unconfirmed origin is affecting Brown Pelicans, sea lions and dolphins. Last year, more than 500 dead pelicans were found along a 43-mile stretch of beaches in the Lambayeque region of northern Peru. Government officials have cited natural causes in the animal deaths — a continued point of contention for conservationists. [Latino Daily News]

—In Hawaii, the Kaua’i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project launches a unique program studying native petrels and shearwaters through burrow cams. [Midweek Kaua’i]

—Scientists also deploy “critter cams” to study hunting behavior of the Adelie Penguin. [Ars Technica]

—Bird activists in New Zealand start a controversial campaign to rid the island nation of housecats in order to save native bird species. [Time]

—A U.S. Navy minesweeper ran aground on a reef in the Philippines while on its way to Indonesia and will need to be loaded onto another ship or barge. About 15,000 gallons of fuel are being siphoned off the vessel to prevent a spill. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]

—Video of the week: a miraculous encounter with a bottlenose dolphin suffering from fishing line entanglement between its mouth and left pectoral fin. [YouTube]

Note: If you see marine life in distress, please contact the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at 800-853-1964. For information on reporting injured seabirds, visit our Found a Bird? page.

January 24, 2013

Follow our daily bird facts on Twitter!

International Bird Rescue’s Russ Curtis has your daily dose of intriguing bird facts on Twitter. Are you following us?

Check us out @intbirdrescue. More than 6,500 followers can’t be wrong!

Blue-footed Boobies in the Galapagos Islands. Photo taken during International Bird Rescue’s response to the Jessica spill in 2001.

January 18, 2013

News round-up, January 18

What’s new? Wildlife lovers demand answers in razing of L.A. wildlife reserve, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar steps down following four-year tenure and the magnificent camo-prowess of the Japanese Quail.

—In the San Fernando Valley, regional officials, local bird lovers and environmental advocates are demanding answers after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently razed 43 acres of the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve — the site of an American White Pelican release by International Bird Rescue last month. Via ABC 7:

Just weeks ago, the lot was full of trees, bushes and all kinds of wildlife. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flattened it, saying the area was a hot spot for drug dealing and sex trafficking.

“The Army Corps of Engineers has come in here and basically destroyed what was a thriving habitat for animals and for people to come enjoy the environment. And what we have now is basically a war zone,” said one activist.

The Regional Water Quality Control Board is demanding an official explanation from the federal agency. An Army spokesman told the Daily News they would comply with the state request. [ABC 7]

We are reaching out to local advocates for any updates on the White Pelican pod at this wonderful reserve and will keep you posted.

American White Pelican release, photo by Mike Stensvold

—Congratulations to International Crane Foundation founder George Archibald, winner of this year’s Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership Prize, a $100,000 award presented by the National Audubon Society.

More on the award via Wall Street Journal:

An endowment has been established for the Lufkin Prize, and it will be awarded annually for 10 years, totaling a $1 million gift from the Lufkin family.

The new prize aims to reach scientists who have devoted their lives to environmental issues, but may not have garnered much recognition. One reason, he said, is because these scientists are often working so hard in far-flung locales that they don’t have time to promote their efforts. It is one of the largest prizes currently given in recognition of environmental conservancy.

The International Crane Foundation is based in Baraboo, Wisc. [WSJ]

—Eric Cuellar (photo left), a 24-year-old UC-Berkeley law student, has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty charges after he and fellow Boalt Hall student Justin Teixeira (right) allegedly decapitated a Helmeted Guineafowl named “Turk” at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino’s Wildlife Habitat in Las Vegas. According to Above the Law, Teixeira still faces four counts of willful and malicious torture or killing of wildlife.

Cuellar’s sentence? 48 hours of community service, a $200 fine and $150 in restitution to the casino. [Above the Law]

—U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who visited one of the rehabilitation facilities co-managed by International Bird Rescue during the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010, announced this week that he is leaving the cabinet post after four years in office. [New York Times]

—Bay Nature takes a look at two common (and delightful) shorebird residents in the Bay, the Least Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper. [Bay Nature]

—A cunning use of camouflage: Researchers find that the ground-nesting Japanese Quail selects a nest location that matches its egg color and pattern.

“Females laying heavily maculated eggs selected the substrate that more closely matched egg maculation color properties, leading to camouflage through disruptive coloration,” researchers found. “For lightly maculated eggs, females chose a substrate that best matched their egg background coloration, suggesting background matching. Our results show that quail “know” their individual egg patterning and seek out a nest position that provides most effective camouflage for their individual phenotype.” [Current Biology]

—The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s audio Macaulay Library is now fully online, the LA Times reports:

The archive, which also includes videos, contains recordings of 9,000 species. Most are of birds. But the sounds of marine animals, primates, frogs and elephants are among the others captured by field researchers,”

You can hear the haunting call of a common loon or swimming walruses uttering noises that are a cross between the hammering of a nail gun and a child practicing the drums. [Los Angeles Times — Greenspace]

January 17, 2013

In care this week: Red-tailed Hawk

Photo by Cheryl Reynolds


This Red-tailed Hawk was brought to our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center via Solano County Animal Control with a fractured leg (the bird was also dehydrated and emaciated).

Our veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, splinted the fracture, and the bird was successfully transferred to another facility on Wednesday.

Though International Bird Rescue primarily works with aquatic birds, we also treat non-aquatic species. Here are just a few in the past year:

Sharp-shinned Hawk contaminated with glue trap material

Wild Turkey shot with a target arrow

Western Screech Owl that had flown into insulation foam 

Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

January 16, 2013

These American White Pelicans are ready for your honorary adoption!

These two beautiful American White Pelicans are currently in care at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center — and both are eligible for honorary adoptions. Will you support their rehabilitation? Find out more about our adopt-a-bird program and its perks here.

Photo courtesy of International Bird Rescue volunteers Doug and Diane Carter

Just a few weeks ago, we released two other rehabilitated White Pelicans at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve in the San Fernando Valley (see photo below). One of these birds had been tangled in fishing line and was successfully rescued thanks to the teamwork of many individuals and organizations. Learn more about these birds here.

American White Pelican release at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, December 1, 2012. Photo by Mike Stensvold.

January 15, 2013

Winter patients at our Los Angeles wildlife care center

The hard-working staff at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center are very busy with many interesting species in need of our care (click here for the latest bird count).

On a recent visit to the center, located in San Pedro, volunteer photographer Bill Steinkamp took these great photographs of just some of our current patients.

Male Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)

Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)

Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Black-vented Shearwater (Puffinus opisthomelas)

Common Murres, (Uria aalge) a Bufflehead and an Eared Grebe congregate in a pelagic pool

January 13, 2013

Gulls on the mend (and no longer tangled together in fishing line)

The two Western Gulls from last week’s great gull rescue in the low-tide mud flats at Vallejo Marina are doing well and on the mend, our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center staff reports.

Warmest thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard for their hard work in saving these wonderful birds.

Cheryl Reynolds

January 11, 2013

Birds in care this week

A Black-vented Shearwater currently in care at our Los Angeles wildlife care center. Photo by Bill Steinkamp.

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

San Francisco Bay Area center:
51 Birds in Care
(updated January 9, 2013)

16 Brown Pelicans
8 Western Grebes
7 Northern Fulmars
4 Common Murres
3 Horned Grebes
3 Western Gulls
2 Buffleheads
2 Eared Grebes
1 Black-crowned Night Heron
1 Brandt’s Cormorant
1 California Gull
1 Eared Grebe
1 Herring Gull
1 Mallard Duck

Los Angeles center:
46 Birds in Care
(updated January 10, 2013)

12 Brown Pelicans
8 Western Grebes
6 Common Murres
4 Western Gulls
3 American White Pelicans
2 Great Blue Herons
2 Eared Grebes
1 Common Loon
1 Brant Goose
1 Heermann’s Gull
1 Northern Fulmar
1 Bufflehead
1 Black-vented Shearwater (see photo above)
1 Pacific Loon
1 Black-necked Stilt
1 Long-billed Dowitcher
1 Common Loon

January 9, 2013

Teaming up with the Coast Guard to save fishing line-entangled gulls

On Tuesday, two of our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center staffers, Isabel Luevano and Cheryl Reynolds, were dispatched for a rescue effort involving two Western Gulls tangled together in fishing line. Here, Luevano recounts the successful capture of the birds with the fantastic help of the U.S. Coast Guard. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds. 


Yesterday around 2:30 pm, the clinic received a phone call from Vallejo Police about two gulls that were entangled with each other by fishing line. Animal control services were unable to help the birds since they were about 20 feet out in the water. Knowing the area, [San Francisco Bay Area center staffer] Cheryl and I offered to scope out the scene. We grabbed a kennel, some towels and a net with an extension.

Before we left the clinic in Cordelia, we received word from the police that the Coast Guard was also notified since the birds were far into the water.

Once Cheryl and I arrived on the scene, I received a phone call from the Coast Guard telling me that a group of officers would be helping in the rescue. Once I saw the birds in distress, I realized that this rescue would be bigger then me, a kennel and a net.

The two birds were stranded on the low-tide mud flats of the Vallejo Marina. Behind them, we could see by their footprints just how far the birds had managed to drag themselves as they tried to get away from members of public. The area where the gulls were located looked to be about a 15-foot drop from the walkway, which at normal tide levels is completely submerged in about 10 to 15 feet of seawater.

U.S. Coast Guard to the rescue.


Trudging through the mud flats to save the entangled gulls.

At this point, we had met up with four or five Coast Guard officers suited up for action. Attempting to use wood planks to navigate the mud flats, they were sinking almost thigh-deep into the mud, and ended simply trudging through the sludge. One of the officers was then able to reach the gulls with our extended net. He secured them into the kennel and raised them up to safety.

Thankfully, the Coast Guard was able to jump into action. Without them, I would have not been able to rescue these birds without endangering myself, and the birds would not have survived once the p.m. tide came in.

Once the birds arrived to the center, we jumped into action, removing fishing line, a bobber, a weight and three treble hooks attached to a floater. Luckily, the birds were not hooked together, but tangled tightly in line: One gull’s feet were tangled and attached to the other gull’s wing. Since the birds were struggling in the exposed mud flats, they were also soaked and caked in thick, cold mud. After the line and hooks were removed and the birds were physically checked for injuries, we gave them a quick rinse-off. We then took an X-ray to make sure that all hooks were removed.

Rehab techs Suzie Kosina (background, left) and Isabel Luevano (background, right) remove fishing line and tackle from the birds with the help of volunteers Carol Lombard (foreground, left) and Margee Scannell.

Removing fishing line and tackle from the birds.

Moving forward, they now just need to heal from minor fishing line injuries and hopefully will make a quick recovery.

Fishing line pollution is something that we see on a regular basis at the clinic. It’s a frustrating problem that injures innocent birds and is completely preventable. Knowing your impact on the world is half the battle, but the more information and education we can provide, the sooner we can turn it all around and make the world a safer place for all wildlife.

Help us continue our mission to save birds harmed by human causes. Learn more about how you can help at birdrescue.org/donate.

Photo of the rescue on the cover of Wednesday’s Vallejo Times-Herald by Mike Jory:

January 8, 2013

News round-up, January 8

A male Northern Flicker photographed by Alice Cahill, Grand Prize Winner of the 2012 Audubon Magazine Photography Awards.

—A week after it grounded off Alaska’s Sitkalidak Island, the Royal Dutch Shell Kulluk drilling vessel was successfully refloated and towed to safe harbor in Kiliuda Bay. Inspectors will investigate whether repairs of the vessel are needed.

International Bird Rescue was activated to create a wildlife response plan in the event of an oil spill (officials have found no oil discharge resulting from the incident). The area is home to a large population of Common Murres as well as other seabirds. [Anchorage Daily News]

—Meanwhile, wildlife lovers in the Bay Area are breathing a sigh of relief after an empty oil tanker swiped a tower of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Unlike the 2007 Cosco Busan disaster, Monday’s incident did not result in an oil spill. “We all responded assuming this was going to be another episode of what we saw with the last spill,” Kelly Huston, the spokesman for the California Emergency Management Agency, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There was some confusion in the last one, and we’ve had incidents where the coordination wasn’t as good. Since then there have been a lot of changes.” [SF Chronicle]

We recently looked back at the Cosco Busan spill of 2007, click here for an infographic about the spill’s effects on Bay Area birds.

—The Daily Breeze’s Donna Littlejohn writes about International Bird Rescue’s Blue-Banded Pelican program. [Daily Breeze/LA Daily News]

—Speaking of pelicans, the Eagle Optics blog featured winners of our Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest winners. [Eagle Optics blog]

—Hand-wringing goes national over increased Great-tailed Grackle populations. [Detroit Free Press]

  —Birds respond remarkably similar to birdsong as humans to do music, Donna Maney, an Emory University neuroscientist and co-author of a new study published in Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, explains in an interview with NYT. The study used birdsong response in White-throated Sparrows. [New York Times]

—A recent Bird Fact of the Day via International Bird Rescue on Twitter: