Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for May 2013

May 30, 2013

Photographers in Focus: Kim Taylor

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Tree Swallow, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va. All images
© Kim Taylor.

Twitter has proved to be quite the matchmaker for our Photographers in Focus series. We recently came across the work of new follower Kim-Taylor@ktaylorphotos, aka Kim Taylor, who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and has an eye for the tranquil moments of bird photography, whether on the water or in the sky.

This Mallard Duckling and dragonfly shot (below) is an instant classic. Other subjects, whether a Tree Swallow soaring above, a Green Heron stalking at water’s edge or the droplets spilling off an American Wigeon’s bill, capture that simultaneous moment of joy and tremendous excitement upon seeing a bird in the wild.

The Ospreys in the Washington area are a particular favorite for Taylor: she’s been following one pair for several years now.

Taylor, who recently caught up with us to chat about her photographs, has offered these images as prints for sale with proceeds benefiting International Bird Rescue! Click here to find out more at Kim’s photography website.

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Mallard Duckling and dragonfly, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va. 

Favorite spots

Taylor: While I work and live in a city/suburban area, where wildlife and many bird species are plentiful, I love going to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (in Maryland) and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge (in Delaware). Both Blackwater and Bombay Hook are about a two-and-a-half hour’s drive from Washington, D.C. Both offer amazing opportunities to capture wildlife during the year and are great spots during migration in the spring and fall. Many different species of birds winter here or pass through this region.

Equipment of choice

I use a Nikon D3 and D800. My go-to lens is the Nikkor 600MM f4. Other options: 300mm f2.8, 60mm 2.8,50mm 1.8, and 14-28 Gf2.8. My bread-and-butter lens is the 600mm, as I use it for sports photography too.

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Green Heron, Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, Va.

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Snowy Egret, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Smyrna, Del.

Thoughts on motion

Photographing birds in flight takes practice, practice and more practice. I also think becoming one with your camera is essential. While you are watching a bird, the larger your lens, the more you must pay attention to being steady, while following the bird in your viewfinder. All while thinking, Do I adjust my shutter speed? My F-stop? Being one with your camera means knowing by glance at your meter which adjustments to make on the fly for +/- shutter speed and/or F-stop (I am speaking toward shooting on manual settings).

Starting out, you will miss shots — we all did and still do — but missing shots teaches you that the next time conditions are similar, what settings to start with and what to improve from there. Basically, shooting without having to think about what your camera is doing, and instead think about what the bird is doing or going to do. Knowing bird behavior is critical. Knowing by watching will allow you to be ready for that wingbeat shot, say, after a duck or goose preens. Birds will tell you what they are going to do if you just listen and watch.

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American Wigeon, Choptank River, Cambridge, Md.

Photographic perseverance

Standing in half-frozen water waiting for Canada Geese to take flight is difficult. Also going out in really hot and humid weather, even in the early parts of the day, is difficult. But if I know a Prothonotary Warbler is hanging around a certain spot at a park, deep in the thicket on a hot, humid day … I am there.

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Belted Kingfisher, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

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Mallard Drake, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

Memorable shots

That’s a tough question. I have several that fit that description for different reasons. I see some amazing Osprey photos this time of year. There are photos of Osprey emerging from water with fish that are just stunning! (Yes, those extra hard shots are on my list this year.)

Any photo featuring a bird is inspiration. I think of birds as miracles with wings.

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Female Osprey, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

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Horned Grebe, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

Injured wildlife

Sadly, I have seen injured birds, but gratefully not many. I do try to get help for an injured bird; as you all know, sometimes that is easier said than done. I’ve also taken a basic wildlife rescue and rehabilitation class. I carry basic rescue tools (boxes, something to cover the bird’s eyes) and my handy list of rehabbers in the area on my phone. Ironically, two weeks before my rescue class, I rescued a pigeon in a parking lot. It was unable to fly, so I scooped it up and took it to an animal hospital near me.

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Barn Swallow, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

A note to the novice

Photographing birds and wildlife takes lots of patience! By nature, I am not a patient person, but give me my camera, let me walk out into wilderness, and I can wait all day for “the shot” if need be. Which is what I have done many times. Unlike other types of photography, you can’t just show up at a spot and expect birds to be waiting for you, the same way you would shooting a street scene downtown at rush hour. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t. Yes, there are those lucky times — you show up, get your shots and move on — but that is not the norm.

Taking a photo of a duck sitting on water looks easy, but in reality that duck is moving. Taking a photo of a duckling nipping at a dragonfly looks easy, but in reality there were two frames. Two frames — that’s it. To get the photograph, you have to go out there and wait for it and be prepared to take what Mother Nature gives you. So pack lots of patience and learn the behavior of the wildlife you want to photograph, and be prepared to wait, wait and wait some more.

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Northern Pintail, Belle Haven Park and Marina, Alexandria, Va.

If you would like to be considered as a featured wildlife photographer for International Bird Rescue, or would like to recommend a photographer for this regular feature, please e-mail us.

And check out some of our previous featured photographers, including Yeray Seminario of Spain, Jackie Wollner of Los Angeles, Matt Bryant of Florida, Robyn Carter of New Zealand and Christopher Taylor of Venice, Calif.

May 29, 2013

The Fallen Heron and Egret Colony Fund – we’re halfway there!


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Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Good news!

Recently, we brought you the story of 15 baby egrets and herons displaced after their rookery tree was toppled by high winds in San Pedro, not far from our Los Angeles wildlife care center. Our incubators were immediately filled with squawking babies that needed to be fed cut-up fish every few hours during the day via their surrogate parent: a puppet feeder.

After launching the “Fallen Heron and Egret Colony Fund,” we’re pleased to report that we’ve reached the halfway mark in our $5,000 goal to care for these orphans, as well as the large numbers of baby birds we care for each year at both International Bird Rescue centers in California. Special thanks to the Port of Los Angeles for donating $1,000 for the care of these animals.

This season, will you support the care of orphaned baby birds? Any gift amount will go a long way to help out these little guys. And for a donation of $75 or more, we’ll send you a customized adoption e-certificate in honor of your gift. Any recurring donation made through June 1 is also eligible for an official certificate.

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Update: These birds are growing up fast! Photos of the herons and egrets in care below by Bill Steinkamp.

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May 28, 2013

Bird news round-up, May 28

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Marbled Murrelet (left) photo via USFWS; Steller’s Jay via Wikimedia Commons

—Efforts to save the endangered and elusive Marbled Murrelet have become the subject of increased attention along the West Coast. But one particular strategy officially has gone viral:

A member of the Auk family that calls the North Pacific its home, Marbled Murrelets nest high in old-growth forests  — a quirk that wasn’t even discovered until 1974. Loss of nesting habitat isn’t the only problem for this bird. The murrelet’s eggs have also faced predation by the aggressive and abundant Steller’s Jay.

In a strategy that includes PR efforts aimed at reduced feeding of jays and limiting campsites near murrelet habitat, scientists are employing conditioned taste aversion to induce vomiting in the egg-feasting jays. Via Smithsonian:

Basically, scientists are going to paint the odorless, tasteless chemical called carbachol onto the eggs of the marbeled murrelet. This way, when an egg-eating Steller’s jay comes along and tries to chow down on the endangered birds’ vulnerable eggs, the jay will puke immediately. This sudden, extreme response is perfect for teaching jays to avoid murrelet eggs, researcher Keith Benson told Live Science: “All of a sudden, their wings will droop, and they throw up. That’s exactly what you want — a rapid response — so within five minutes, they barf up whatever they ate.”

This sort of conditioning of the jays is called conditioned taste aversion (CTA). The Fish and Wildlife Service explains that ‘jays that ingest carbachol-treated eggs are expected to associate the unpleasant experience with murrelet eggs such that they modify their behavior and avoid ingesting actual murrelet eggs they encounter in the future.’” [Smithsonian.com]

—Federal agencies have approved the Terra Gen 2,300-acre Alta Windpower project in California’s Tehachapi Mountains, despite deep concern among conservationists about the energy project’s proximity to the historic range of California Condors, which number only 234 in the wild. The LA times reports that a telemetry system will be employed to detect radio tags on the condors, causing the turbine blades to slow to about 3 mph within 2 minutes. [Los Angeles Times]

—Cruelty against aquatic bird species is a global problem. In Western Australia, we came across this story of two Australian Pelicans Pelican-arrow-729-620x349used as target practice (one was humanely euthanized as a result of its injuries, another is being rehabilitated). In just the past few months, International Bird Rescue has seen multiple cruelty cases, from a Greylag Goose shot with a target arrow to a Brown Pelican found with its wings crudely clipped. [WA Today – Australia]

350.org founder Bill McKibben has been awarded the $100K Sophie Prize for his climate change activism. [Associated Press]

—Stopover sites along the African-Eurasian flyways are vanishing, with rates of decline the steepest among any global ecological system. [AllAfrica.com]

—In honor of Rachel Carson’s birthday (May 27), National Audubon Society vice president for bird conservation Stephen Kress pens a remembrance on the iconic environmentalist’s legacy. [Huffington Post]

—TwitPic of the day, via Russ Curtis:

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Are you following us on Twitter? Check out @intbirdrescue for your “Every Bird Matters” fix!

May 27, 2013

Today in Bird Rescue history: the famous ‘alien in a duck’ X-ray

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Seven years ago this Memorial Day weekend, International Bird Rescue made history with our eBay sale of an X-ray of an injured duck that had the appearance of an alien in its stomach.

The X-ray was sold for $9,600, made international news and was featured on both Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It was also featured in a Farley cartoon and on National Geographic News.

Read more on this unusual story here.

 

 

May 24, 2013

International Bird Rescue’s red-banded egrets

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Red-banded egret photo by Cindy Margulis

Herons and egrets are common visitors to our two rehabilitation centers in California. Each year, we receive adult birds that have various injuries or illnesses, but it’s the baby herons and egrets of the summer that make the biggest impact. The species that we typically receive, in order of abundance, are Black-crowned Night Herons, Snowy Egrets, Green Herons, Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Cattle Egrets, American Bitterns and Least Bitterns.

With the exception of bitterns, all of these birds nest in tree and bush colonies called rookeries. Each nest typically contains two to three eggs, and once the babies hatch, they begin to eat and grow quickly. Unlike many other bird species whose babies remain in the nest until they are at least flighted, baby herons become “branchers” as early as one week of age. This means that they begin to climb early on with their gangly legs, hanging out on the branches around the nest site. High winds, fights with their neighbors and sibling domination causes some of them fall.

This is where we come in. In wild areas, the fallen babies either die, climb back up to the rookery or become food for predators. But in urban areas, they are often found by the public, and the live ones are brought to us for care and raising. In 2012 alone, our Northern California facility received 286 herons and egrets, while our Southern California center received 94.

Raising baby herons is not difficult, as they are great eaters and social birds. But many of them sustain injuries during their fall. These birds require more intensive care, medications, and sometimes surgery and cage time. We have also seen vitamin deficiencies in the Snowy Egret chicks, but we have yet discover the reason for this problem.

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Baby Snowy Egrets, May 2013. Photo by Bill Steinkamp.

All of our herons and egrets are federally banded upon release. About five years ago, we began putting an additional small, non-numbered red plastic band on the opposite leg of all hand-raised Snowy Egrets so that we could identify them in the wild. In 2012, we added white numbers to these red bands for the egrets, much like we do with our Blue-Banded Pelican program. This way we can actually trace any identified bird back to its origin.

A few of the original red plastic-banded birds without numbers, as well as federally banded birds, are being reported every year nesting and raising young at the egret colony in Alameda, CA, located in the East Bay. We have also received reports of three red-banded Snowy Egrets with numbered bands since their release last summer:

—1076-68351 red band (A51): Released 7/14/12 in Oakland, CA and sighted on 9/10/12 at the Don Edwards SF Bay NWL refuge, Lariviere Marsh in Freemont, CA

—1076-68308 red band (A08): Released 6/23/12 in Oakland and sighted on 12/16/12 in San Jose, CA

—1076-68331 red band (A31): Released 7/5/12 in Cordelia, CA and sighted on 1/6/13 in Davis, CA

—Unidentified red band with white numbers at top of egret colony on 5/13/2013 in Alameda (shown in photo above)

This is encouraging news, and we will continue to band these birds. Future plans are to color mark the Black-crowned Night Herons.

May 22, 2013

Mother duck dies, but removed egg hatches 26 days later

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Photo by Michelle Bellizzi

The story is so rare, so unusual that Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue’s director, can’t remember it ever happening in his 40-year career. It’s a bittersweet story with a heartwarming outcome.

On April 22, 2013, a female Mallard Duck who had been hit by a car in Napa, CA, was brought to our San Francisco Bay wildlife hospital in nearby Fairfield. Staff veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr took an X-ray to determine the extent of the duck’s injuries. Sadly, the X-ray showed a broken spine, an injury too severe for her to be saved.

Also revealed: an egg she was ready to lay.

“When I saw the egg, I thought, Why not remove it and put it in our incubator?” Duerr said. “It would be wonderful if something good came from tragedy. It’s certainly worth a try.”

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“We have a 100-egg incubator that has been in full use hatching abandoned or rescued eggs this spring,” Holcomb said. “So in went the special egg, specially marked so we knew who it was, and the wait began. For mallard eggs, the incubation is 23-30 days. There are many reasons eggs don’t hatch, so there was no guarantee, just hope that this egg would.”

Twenty-six days later, staff noticed the egg was pipping! Would the duckling be strong and healthy? It was! A perfect mallard duckling had hatched.

A special leg band was put on, Pink 7, to identify this little girl or guy among the large numbers of other ducklings IBR cares for each spring and summer.

“Every wild duckling we get in — and last year that total number was 1,447 — has a unique story as to why they ended up without their mother and were rescued, usually by good Samaritans,” Holcomb said. “Some come in alone, most others with their siblings, and very rarely we’ll get a mother and her babies who have been removed from harm’s way. But this time, quite by accident, we found the only remaining offspring of the fatally wounded mother, still inside of her in the form of an egg. We did not want her death to be in vain, so we decided to give that egg a chance for life, and as her only living offspring to carry on her genetics. We don’t get to do this very often, but we seized the opportunity and it paid off!” — Karen Benzel

Mallard Duckling at SF Bay Center
Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

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May 21, 2013

New arrival: Common Merganser chick

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Images and video by Michelle Bellizzi

Among the many baby birds now in care at our San Francisco Bay center is this Common Merganser chick. Earlier this month, we featured an adult merganser — a Red-breasted Merganser, to be exact — on this blog, one brought to us via an Arizona rehabilitation center (read this recent story and check out a great release photo here).

As for the chick, center manager Michelle Bellizzi reports that this bird was brought to us via The Bird Rescue Center of Santa Rosa and weighed just 30 grams upon intake — about as much as a pencil.

In the video below, it’s feeding time. This chick has since been transferred to a small pool with some duckling pals.

May 20, 2013

Update on orphaned egrets and herons!

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Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Last week, we brought you the story of a rookery tree at the Port of Los Angeles that had blown over in high winds. The L.A. Harbor Department’s tree division imagesappeared on the scene quickly and helped us to save 15 baby birds that had fallen from their nests: 12 Black-crowned Night Herons and three Snowy Egrets.

Volunteer photographer Bill Steinkamp and staff rehabilitation technician Kylie Clatterbuck took photos and video of these birds now in our care (see below).

We’re also pleased to report that the Port of Los Angeles has given a $1,000 gift to care for these baby birds! We sincerely appreciate their multi-level support, from rescue to donation. Thank you!

How can you help? Each year, both our wildlife care centers in California receive hundreds (even thousands) of orphaned baby birds, from ducklings to goslings and baby egrets like the ones in this video. A gift of just $10 a month helps us to provide the warmth, food and expert medical care these animals need before they are released into the wild. Find out how you can become an International Bird Rescue supporter here.

May 17, 2013

Bird news round-up, May 17

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Seabird colony photo via Wikimedia Commons

What’s new?

—We’ve noticed an uptick in media interest regarding seabirds and their critical role in tracking ocean pollution — a subject of particular interest on this blog. In the May 3 edition of the journal Science, John Elliott of Environment Canada and University of Manitoba researcher Kyle Elliott write compellingly about seabird monitoring studies and their advantages vis-à-vis other ocean species.

For one, seabirds forage widely across open seas but return to central breeding locations: “In one afternoon at a seabird colony, a biologist can sample an area of ocean that would cost millions of dollars to investigate using a scientific vessel,” the researchers note. [Science via NBC News]

One such species that feeds on the open water is the endangered Hawaiian Petrel (pictured below via Wikimedia Commons), the focus of a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Bulweria_bulwerii_Hawaii_1Sciences. Researchers studied isotope records from modern and ancient petrel bones to examine dietary changes over time. Results indicated a radical shift in availability of fish, most likely explained by the marked rise of the commercial fishing industry over the past century. [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]

—Also: Greenpeace unveils a new ad targeting plastic pollution and the soda industry in Australia. [HuffPost Green]

—In Northern California, advocates for the Marbled Murrelet are calling on California State Parks to act further in protecting nesting habitat for the endangered bird in Big Basin State Park. Earlier today, the State Parks Commission was scheduled to meet regarding the murrelet habitat (if you attended, let us know what happened!). Audublog wrote recently of the species:

Unlike other seabirds which nest primarily on islands, marbled murrelets nest in large, flat branches of old-growth coastal trees such as redwoods and sitka spruce. They are so secretive that scientists did not know where they nested until the 1970s. […]

The Santa Cruz mountains are the last stronghold for central California’s murrelets, with the population of about 450 individuals nesting mostly in Big Basin State Park. According to experts, the population has declined by about 35% in the last 10 years, due mostly to nest predation by jays, crows and ravens, the group of our native birds known as corvids. Major campgrounds are located in the heart of old growth redwood habitat in Big Basin State Park, providing ample food and supporting population growth of these nest predators.

Audubon, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other groups have praised California State Parks for scrapping plans to build cabins in a sensitive breeding site, but have called on the agency to “dramatically reduce recreation and camping in three other core murrelet breeding areas, especially during the nesting season.” [Audublog]

—In the U.K., wildlife activists are concerned about the presence of a new, whitish slick seen from the air and believed to be the substance polyisobutene, or PIB, which has already killed thousands of seabirds that have washed up on the beaches of Devon and Cornwall. Polyisobutene is used in ship engines; earlier this month, the BBC reported that the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) was still working to determine the source of the pollution. [BBC News]

This latest slick has affected Common Guillemots, known as Common Murres in North America (pictured below). Earlier this year, International Bird Rescue cared for dozens of Common Murres oiled by natural seepage off the Southern California coast.

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Common Murres, photo by Bill Steinkamp

May 16, 2013

Snowy Egret and Black-crowned Night Heron babies saved from fallen tree

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All photos by Kylie Clatterbuck

On Tuesday, high winds toppled this tree near the Ports O’Call Village in San Pedro, located not far from our Los AngelesIBR-Map-San-Pedro wildlife care center. Sadly, this tree was a rookery for many Black-crowned Night Herons and Snowy Egrets, and the scene was littered with broken eggs.

But the L.A. Harbor Department’s tree crew from its construction and maintenance team responded quickly to the fallen tree and rescued a total of 15 baby birds — 12 Black-crowned Night Herons and three Snowy Egrets.

Whenever possible, we will attempt to reunite baby birds that have fallen out of nests with their parents. Clearly we couldn’t do that in this case, and placing them in an adjacent tree wasn’t a feasible alternative. So we’re happy to report that all these baby birds are now in our care. They range from a Snowy Egret that likely hatched just a day or two ago to Black-crowned Nigh Herons that were close to fledging their nests.

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Baby Black-crowned Night Herons

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“All the babies were in great shape when they arrived, full bellies from being fed by mom earlier that day, and are eating well on their own,” staff rehabilitation technician Kylie Clatterbuck reports. “Aside from a few minor abrasions, they all look great.”

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Snowy Egrets

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We’ll keep you posted on their progress at our L.A. center. In the meantime, please consider supporting the care for these animals by visiting birdrescue.org/donate.

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Adult Black-crowned Night Heron (left) by Jackie Wollner; adult Snowy Egret by Frank Schulenberg via Wikimedia Commons.

May 14, 2013

In care this week: Caspian Tern with multiple fractures

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Photo by Dr. Rebecca Duerr

This Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) was rescued by Long Beach Animal Control unable to fly. We found him to have not only a broken right wing, but also a broken left leg. Our veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, performed orthopedic surgery Sunday to repair the leg while the wing heals in a wrap. The photo below shows the left leg post-operation.

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The largest tern species, Caspian Terns feed mainly on fish via plunge diving and primarily nest on offshore islands. They are commonly seen in Southern California, and our organization has deep experience in caring for them. In 2006, Caspian Tern2International Bird Rescue assisted in the recovery effort of hundreds of dead baby Caspian and Elegant Terns washed off a barge docked in Long Beach.

In the wake of that disaster, we raised a few young Caspian Tern survivors — a challenge, given they were resistant to learning how to catch live fish and often begged. To give them the best chance of survival, we released these birds at a Caspian Tern colony in the Salton Sea, where they would be surrounded by other young birds learning to fish.

We’ll keep you posted on this tern’s condition as its wing and leg heals.

Additional reading on Caspian Terns:

—Species profile via All About Birds

—Audubon efforts to restore tern habitat in the San Francisco Bay

—Los Angeles Times coverage on the baby tern barge incident from 2006

May 9, 2013

The Pelican Aviary Project is now underway

Pelican,-White-02-MA few months ago, we launched the Pelican Aviary Project, our first foray into the world of online crowdfunding via Indiegogo. With a big help from both our local supporters and pelican enthusiasts from Hawaii to Norway, we raised over $16,000 for a new aviary at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in Fairfield, Calif. (Click here for a list of aviary supporters who helped us surpass our original 15K goal.)

Why do we need this project?

Several years ago, we built a large aviary for rehabilitating injured aquatic species such as pelicans. The enclosure was constructed to the highest standards possible with the funding we had at the time. But with the ever-increasing number of pelicans coming to us, we need to do some major renovations. Price tag: an estimated $45,000.

We’ve received generous support from the Solano County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network … and you!

And we’re excited to report that we’ve broken ground for the new and improved aviary. Pelicans being treated at this facility were recently transported to our Los Angeles center to complete their rehabilitation while renovations are underway.

Here’s an update from San Francisco Bay center manager Michelle Bellizzi:

With the help of truly amazing people — including every staff member, our interns, every volunteer, as well as our neighbors at Solano County Roofing, Hudson Excavation and D&T Fiberglass — our pelican aviary prep work is complete, and we are now just waiting for the concrete work to begin. A few days early, no less!

Among the tasks our intrepid team has completed:

-Dug trenches for relocating the electrical outlets
-Mowed and cleaned the yard to make way for equipment
-Moved filters and pumps
-Moved two 35 foot-by-10 foot fiberglass pools

All of this work and more is in addition to taking care of birds, building duckling boxes, repairing our other aviaries, cleaning the center and preparing it for “busy season.”

Here are some photos of the project and the team at work:

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Pelican Aviary Reconstruction May 2013

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These amazing local businesses were on hand for their expertise:

Hudson Excavation donated both time and materials toward helping us remove the west fence to provide access for the contractors. Our California Department of Fish and Wildlife volunteers finished the job.

D&T Fiberglass disassembled the pools in addition to staying for several hours to help us move the pools.

Solano County Roofing not only donated a forklift to help us, but also donated their time and brought in “The Big Gun” — a giant, all-terrain behemoth with 12-foot forks. This came in handy when the forklift was not quite as effective as we’d hoped. The Big Gun, expert driver and our makeshift crew were able to move all four pool halves in one-tenth the time it would have taken our crew alone, with about one-tenth the blood, sweat and tears.

In the coming weeks we’ll keep you posted on our progress. Thanks!

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Brown Pelican photo (above) and American White Pelican photo (top) by Bill Steinkamp.

May 8, 2013

Released! Red-breasted Merganser

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Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

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Photo by Michelle Bellizzi

This male Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) was recently sent to us from a rehabilitation group in Arizona that was unfamiliar with the species and lacked appropriate water caging. “The bird was found to have a fractured clavicle, a wound on its wing and foot lesions,” says Michelle Bellizzi, center manager of International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center. “The foot lesions were likely the result of captivity. It was the fractured clavicle and wing injury that brought it into care.” After several weeks of rehabilitation at our center, this bird was released nearby.

The Red-breasted Merganser is one of three species of mergansers in North America. Known for their thin, serrated bills to catch fish prey, Red-breasted Mergansers are “bold world traveler[s], plying icy waters where usually only scoters and eiders dare to tread,” 10,000 Birds notes. “While all mergansers are swift fliers, the Red-breast holds the avian record for fastest level-flight at 100 mph.”

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A close-up of the Red-breasted Merganser’s serrated, “toothy” bill. Photo by Dr. Rebecca Duerr.

Below, the merganser is released back into the wild.

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Photo by Nicole Maclennan