Every Bird Matters
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Archive for November 2013

November 30, 2013

Guest post: Keeping watch over Brown Pelicans

Banded Brown Pelican Coming Down

Anna WeinsteinBy Anna Weinstein, Audubon California

The Brown Pelican is California’s iconic coastal bird and one of the great success stories of the Endangered Species Act. While pelicans have dramatically recovered in the last 30 years, they have since suffered unprecedented breeding failures and starvation events in California and Oregon, likely due to poor availability of prey. Audubon California is leading a set of concerned groups urging the Fish and Wildlife Service to complete key tasks required under the Endangered Species Act in order to secure the future of these beloved birds.

Globally, there are six subspecies of Brown Pelican. Most California Brown Pelicans breed in the Gulf of California (MX), and the rest in Southern California, mostly at the Channel Islands. In 2009, three subspecies including the California Brown Pelican were triumphantly removed from the Endangered Species List — a great success story populated with conservation heroes who worked to remove harmful chemicals from the pelicans’ environment and protect breeding islands.

Also in 2009, the Service issued a draft plan for monitoring pelicans following delisting. These “post-delisting monitoring plans” (PDM’s) are required by the Endangered Species Act in order to “monitor effectively for not less than five years” the status of a species following delisting. In the words of the Service, “the intent of this monitoring is to determine whether the species should be proposed for relisting, or kept off the list because it remains neither threatened or endangered.”

However, the Service never finalized or implemented the draft plan and no systematic monitoring has taken place, which undermines protection of pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of California and the west coast. In the meantime, Brown Pelicans in California and Oregon have been showing signs of stress. At the U.S. Channel Islands, the most important U.S. breeding colony for this subspecies, biologists have noticed a decline in nest success starting in 2010, culminating in near-total nest failures in 2012 and 2013. These failures have been attributed to a lack of prey in proximity to the islands.

Additionally, unusual mortality events of Brown Pelicans in Oregon and California in 2009-2012 have been attributed to starvation. Many Audubon chapter members and leaders, including Dave Weeshoff, President of the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society and a volunteer with International Bird Rescue, have observed first-hand the unusual number of starving and disoriented pelicans, especially in Southern California.

Scientific studies have shown that breeding pelicans in California and in the Gulf of Mexico require anchovies and sardines to feed their young. In Peli IMG_0221-Mrecent years, both sardines and anchovies have been scarce or absent from this region due to a variety of factors including overfishing, climate change, and underlying natural variability. The Service is obligated to work with fisheries managers to ensure that sufficient prey is available to breeding and non-breeding pelicans. Right now, with no plan in place to guide monitoring and coordination, these essential activities are not taking place.

Audubon California and the Center for Biological Diversity submitted comments calling for the Service to act on its obligation to Brown Pelicans by finalizing a post delisting monitoring plan as required by the Endangered Species Act, and undertaking critical steps to better understand and track breeding success of Brown Pelicans at the U.S. Channel Islands, among other things. The Pacific Seabird Group, the scientific body for Pacific seabirds, also weighed in with similar concerns. The Service has responded by acknowledging the need to finalize the PDM and undertake focused monitoring and conservation activities for California Brown Pelicans. We will keep you updated as we work with the Service to reach these important objectives.

Anna Weinstein is a conservation biologist with over 15 years’ experience in policy analysis and advocacy, ecology, strategic planning and program development. In 1996 she co-founded Island Conservation, and later worked as a biologist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and as a program officer at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. In 2008 she joined Audubon California to lead the seabird and marine program, focused on protecting seabirds and their habitats, and raising public awareness about the west coast’s seabirds and marine environment.

Guest post cross-linked from Audublog. Lead pelican photo by Marlin Harms. Pelicans in flight photo (right) by Bill Steinkamp.


Associated Press: “Sardine crash may be hurting Brown Pelicans,” November 28, 2013

November 28, 2013

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving

Photo of Sandhill Cranes

Photo: Sandhill Cranes by Graham McGeorge

Dear Friends,

This year, we are deeply thankful that you are a part of our mission to give injured, oiled and orphaned wild birds the care they deserve.

From all of us at International Bird Rescue, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

November 27, 2013

The week in bird news, November 27

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 10.33.17 AM
Monterey Bay feeding frenzy video screen shot via MarineLifeStudies.org

• An abundant anchovy population — the reasons for which are currently unclear — provides for magnificent feeding frenzies of whales, sea lions and seabirds in California’s Monterey Bay. Via Audublog:

Nobody knows why anchovy are abundant here and scarce in other areas. This small, energy-rich fish can fairly be described as the single most important prey species for seabirds in Baja, California and Oregon due to its small size and nearshore distribution. Yet this essential prey item is facing new threats. While information on anchovy stock status is scarce, the little information that does exist suggest stocks have declined on the west coast over the past 20 years.

Fishing pressure is currently low, but is likely to increase due to the collapse of sardine over the past decade. Management attention and standards fall far short of what is needed to meet federal requirements for any actively fished species, let alone an essential prey item. [Audublog]

• A wind energy company charged in the deaths of 14 Golden Eagles and dozens of other birds killed by turbines agreed to pay $1 million in fines for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. [New York Times]

• Conservationists denounce a legislative proposal to increase logging on 2 million acres of Oregon forests, which could lead to a decline of habitat for endangered species such as the Marbled Murrelet. [American Bird Conservancy]

• The Nature Conservancy buys all but 6% of a 1,244-acre uninhabited island in Lake Michigan that serves as a key stopover for migratory birds. [Chippewa Herald]799px-Calidris_canutus_(summer)

• A declining horseshoe crab population in the Delaware Bay threatens the Red Knot, a medium-sized shorebird that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to designate as a threatened species. Along with the use of horseshoe crabs as bait, the pharmaceutical and food industries use a clotting agent in horseshoe crab blood to test for the presence of bacterial toxins. [New York Times; Red Knot photo by Hans Hillewaert/Wikimedia Commons]

• For all you Christmas Bird Count fans, “How to CBC Like a Pro.” [10,000 Birds]

• The 1,000+ bird species that call Burma home are the subject of “Dancing with Wings,” a new book featuring the Spot-billed Pelican, Black-headed Ibis, Oriental Darter and more. [The Irrawaddy]

• International Bird Rescue patient of the week: Horned Grebe at our Los Angeles center, photo by Bill Steinkamp. [Every Bird Matters Blog]

Grebe, Horned IMG_1693-M

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November 22, 2013

Patient of the week: Eared Grebe

This Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) was found beached in Monterey, CA and was transferred to us from a partner wildlife organization. We had this bird on our live webcam, The BirdCam Project, for several days, where it recently showed off its flight prowess and eagerness to escape! Here, the bird is released in the San Pablo Bay by one of our intrepid volunteers.

Meanwhile, our Los Angeles center is also caring for Eared Grebes. Here’s a recent photo from the L.A. center by Bill Steinkamp.

Grebe, Eared IMG_3247-L

November 19, 2013

An all-too-common seabird menace: fishing gear injuries

IMG_3048According to last year’s data, about 22% of Brown Pelicans cared for by International Bird Rescue’s rehabilitation staff had confirmed injuries resulting from fishing gear, such as hooks and monofilament line, which can cause fatal constriction wounds.

And in 2013, we’ve seen a consistently high number of such injuries.

This Brown Pelican was found on November 12 at Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles and rescued by Marine Animal Rescue. Upon intake at our Los Angeles center in the San Pedro neighborhood, we removed multiple hooks off this bird, some severely embedded.

International Bird Rescue rehabilitation technician Kelly Berry reports that the pelican was emaciated and dehydrated, but has since gained over 300 grams and is living in an outside enclosure. The wounds caused by the hooks are receiving treatment on a daily basis.

For more reading on fishing gear pollution and what we can do to limit this nuisance from the marine environment, we heartily recommend SeaDoc Society’s Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project website.

Why do we show these images? After reading a recent post on fishing tackle injuries among seabirds, I realized that it may not be evident to everyone why we post these images and share these birds’ stories on our blog. It’s because fishing tackle and pollutants are daily obstacles for these animals, and we want everyone to know this. The real rub is that ALL of these problems can be fixed with just a little effort. Simply picking up discarded fishing line and tackle wherever you see it on a beach or pier, cutting it into small pieces and disposing of it makes a big difference. Many of these birds become entangled and injured by discarded fishing line and tackle that we walk by every day. — Jay Holcomb

Photos by Julie Skoglund

November 18, 2013

Close-up on a Horned Grebe, one of our current BirdCam Project stars

Photos by Isabel Luevano

Currently recovering in a diving bird pool alongside Common Murres and Eared Grebes is this small Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus), shown here in its winter plumage. During breeding season, this small grebe sports red-and-black plumage as well as two yellow “horns” of feather patches from its eyes to the top of its head.

International Bird Rescue rehabilitation technician Isabel Luevano reports that this Horned Grebe was admitted to our San Francisco Bay center after it was found on a house roof (certainly not a location these birds are typically found) in nearby Santa Rosa. The bird has old eye injuries but has been doing well in the pool, eating its fair share of fish.

Follow our live BirdCam Project here!


November 15, 2013

Our patient of the week is … a rhinoceros?

Auklet, Rhinoceros IMG_3081-L

Well, not quite. But the Rhinoceros Auklet gets its name for a reason.

Residents of the North Pacific, Rhinoceros Auklets (Cerorhinca monocerata) are also known as “Unicorn Puffins” for the small horn extension on their beaks, present in both males and females during breeding season (click here for a photo of this species during breeding). Like many seabirds, they are threatened by oil seeps and spills, including natural seepage off the Southern California coast. Unable to waterproof themselves, oiled birds often end up on popular public beaches.

That’s what happened to this Rhinoceros Auklet. We received the bird from a partner wildlife group after it was found oiled at Malibu’sAucklet, Rhinoceros IMG_2022-M famous Zuma Beach. After the auklet’s condition was stabilized, our Los Angeles center team washed a significant amount of oil off the bird. Without this process, oiled seabirds are unable to survive the cold temperatures of their ocean home.

This is just one of hundreds of oiled birds we care for every year — whether in California or beyond, including the Alberta tar sands, where an International Bird Rescue response team has spent months this year caring for animals affected by a bitumen release in a remote area.

Though this auklet may not know it (he’s far more concerned with the fish delivered to his pool during recovery), it’s your support that makes this work possible. Thank you!

AukletAnd check out our new Rhinoceros Auklet adoption level at our bird adoptions page here. Adoptions are symbolic and represent how your donation can help International Bird Rescue’s work on behalf of aquatic birds worldwide. Your gift will be used where needed most to rescue and rehabilitate birds impacted by both natural and man-made threats, such as oil spills and algal blooms.

Photos by Bill Steinkamp

Aucklet, Rhinoceros IMG_2098-L

November 15, 2013

The week in bird news, November 15

Laysan Albatross, photo by Paul Berry at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center, January 2013

• Scientists studying albatrosses find that these magnificent seabirds have incredibly sophisticated flight patterns, which harness wind energy to propel them far more efficiently than their 11-foot wingspan could muster through flapping.

Via National Geographic:

A team of scientists from the Technische Universitat Munchen in Munich, Germany, used aerospace engineering to reveal the birds’ unique flight patterns—a physical feat that has puzzled academics for years. By attaching GPS trackers to 20 wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) in the wild, the researchers were able to study data from 16 of the birds as they left and returned to the Kerguelen Archipelago (map) in the Indian Ocean.

Albatrosses yo-yo up and down in the sky, taking advantage of momentum generated on their downhill glides in order to climb back up against the wind. These constant up and down changes in altitude keep the birds aloft without requiring much effort.

The research article, “Experimental verification of dynamic soaring in albatrosses,” is published in the current issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology. [National Geographic]

• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has added 23 species to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (six of which were previously covered as subspecies of listed species). [American Bird Conservancy]

• A massive solar power project in California’s Coachella Valley is raising concerns regarding its impact on migratory birds. Scores of dead or injured birds with burned wings caused by intense radiation reflected off solar mirrors have been found on-site. [Desert Sun]

• For Rhode Island beachgoers, a relatively close look at nesting sites of the endangered Piping Plover, courtesy the Nature Conservancy and participating landowners. [Environmental News Network]

• A fantastic bird’s eye view of the Northern Gannet in flight: Researchers with the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute Yeray-Seminario-PiF-11and the Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds attached lightweight mini-cameras and GPS tracking devices on 20 of these seabirds in the seas surrounding the UK.

“Gannets are long lived seabirds and there is still much to learn about their life away from the breeding colony,” said the University of Exeter’s Dr. Stephen Votier. “The application of technology to study the private lives of gannets has been influential to our research in the short-term, but the goal is to continue this work in the long-term to help provide a sustainable future for gannets and other marine life.” (Photo by Yeray Seminario.) [Vision Systems Design]

• Examining the increasingly early migratory patterns of the Black-tailed Godwit, scientists warn of climate change’s effects on bird migration. “We have known that birds are migrating earlier and earlier each year – particularly those that migrate over shorter distances. But the reason why has puzzled bird experts for years. It’s a particularly important question because the species which are not migrating earlier are declining in numbers,” Lead researcher Dr. Jenny Gill from the University of East Anglia’s school of Biological Sciences said. [Science World Report]

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November 8, 2013

Burrowing Owl, banded in Bay Area, spotted in Idaho

Burrowing Owl, photo by Magnus Manske/Wikimedia Commons

As a Master Bander since 1979, I’ve banded a lot of birds — most of them are the aquatic birds that we rehabilitate at our centers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay. But I also support the local rehabbers when I can by banding birds that they are interested in, and many are raptors. As we all know, Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA rehabilitates many animals and has a thriving raptor rehab program. I give them bands for some of the raptors that they release.

One of these raptors is a female Burrowing Owl assumed to be hit by a car in Berkeley, CA that came into care at Lindsay on Nov. 8, 2012 — one year ago today. The bird had various bruises and swelling, and radiographs confirmed a simple, mid-diaphyseal fracture of the left humerus. The fracture was pinned and wrapped, and the bird treated for over a month.

This owl survived her ordeal and made a good recovery. She was released at Cesar Chavez Park, in the Berkeley Marina area, on Dec. 27, 2012 with band number 0614-37468.

Last week, I received a band encounter from the Bird Banding Lab. On June 17, 2013, this bird was discovered alive and healthy by Jamie Groves, a graduate student of raptor biology at Boise State University who is studying Burrowing Owls near Kuna, Idaho, about 500 miles away from the release site. The bird still has her original band on, but Jamie added three color bands to easily identify the owl without having to catch her. Her color bands are: Right Leg: Mauve/Yellow and Left Leg: White/Aluminum Band.

More via Jamie Groves:

I banded this female, as well as her mate and their 7 nestlings (about 4 weeks old at banding). She was nesting in one of the artificial burrows that had been placed in the area some time ago. The nestlings were in really good shape, and from what I recall/see in my notes the female was in great shape as well. The few band-returns we have gotten back are from California, so it seems at least some of our owls like to go to there for the winter.

A big thanks to our friends at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum for their continued compassionate and professional care of our wildlife. And thanks to Jamie for reporting this owl to the banding lab. Much appreciated! —Jay Holcomb

Burrowing Owl Family in Antioch, CA, 2009. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds/Wikimedia Commons

November 8, 2013

In the news, November 8

Manx Shearwater-Wikimedia Commons
Manx Shearwater montage, image by Richard Crossley/Wikimedia Commons

• Conservation groups begin a nonnative brown rat eradication program on two islands off the coast of Cornwall, England to save Manx Shearwaters and Storm Petrels. “Among many challenges our seabirds face, the greatest threat on land is predation of eggs and chicks by brown rats,” said Jaclyn Pearson from the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project. Manx Shearwaters breed mainly in the Eastern Atlantic but are also uncommon visitors to the American East Coast.  [BBC News]

• A land exchange between the U.S. Army and the City of Dublin in California’s Bay Area is raising concern among biologists about habitat preservation of the Burrowing_Owl_2_(7116133277)Burrowing Owl. Terms of the exchange call for six new developments on 189 acres of grasslands. “Trying to preserve the Burrowing Owl has been the most frustrating aspect of my career as a conservationist to date,” Craig Breon, past director of Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, told Bay Nature via email. “It wouldn’t take too much to save these guys, and we’re just not willing to do it.” [Bay Nature; photo by Magnus Manske/Wikimedia Commons]

• Chemical manufacturing regions in Russia and unregulated lead mining in the city of Kabwe, Zambia make the onerous list of the world’s 10 most polluted places, according to the latest report by the Blackstone Institute. [Mother Nature Network]

• Planes and bird strikes: The resulting crash can’t always be blamed on the bird. [Time]

• Bird-friendly coffee? Care2.com takes a look at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and its bird-friendly coffee certification. Over 40 species of migratory birds use coffee plantations as winter havens. Plantations with heavy canopy shade = a plus. [Care2.com]

• A Northern Hawk-Owl hitches a ride on a kayak. [Huffington Post Green]

• One week after negotiations over a marine sanctuary in Antarctica’s Ross Sea failed, observers raise concern over China’s resource surveillance expeditions to the continent. Its colossal research vessel and icebreaker Xuelong set sail for Antarctica on Thursday. [The Guardian]

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November 6, 2013

Release! Elegant Tern recuperates after gunshot injury

Release day for Elegant Tern 13-2408 at SF Bay Center

We’re happy to report that this Elegant Tern covered recently on the blog has been successfully rehabilitated at our San Francisco Bay center. We released the bird Tuesday afternoon in the East Bay near the location of several recent Elegant Tern sightings via eBird.

Check out the release video below. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds.


November 3, 2013

Black-crowned Night Heron with swallowed fish hook

Black-Crowned Night Heron 13-2477 recovering from fishhook removal

Here, staff veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr surgically removes a large fishing hook (attached to a glittery worm lure) swallowed by this Black-crowned Night Heron, currently in care at our San Francisco Bay center. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds.



November 2, 2013

Victim of a likely cat attack, a Black Rail is released

Black Rail 13-2457 at SF Bay Center banded for release on 10/31/13
Black Rail, photo by Cheryl ReynoldsBLRA

Last week’s “Patient of the Week” on Facebook garnered a lot of attention from our fans: a Black Rail brought to us with a leg fracture and other injuries consistent with a likely domestic cat attack.

After a successful rehabilitation at our San Francisco Bay center, the bird was banded by Laurie Hall, a PhD student in the University of California, Berkeley’s Beissinger Lab and researcher with the Black Rail Project.

An elusive bird that hides in thick marsh vegetation, the Black Rail is listed as a near-threatened species (and formally listed as a threatened species by the State of California).

The rail’s wetland habitat, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes, “is threatened by pollution, drought, wildfires, groundwater removal, changing water levels, grazing and agricultural expansion.”

Black Rail 13-2457 at SF Bay Center being measured before release on 10/31/13
Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Below, Hall sent us photos of the rail’s release on Thursday afternoon near Novato, CA. It flew several meters into the wetland after release.


Click here for more information on Hall’s dissertation research.

November 2, 2013

Update on Elegant Tern cruelty case

Release day for Elegant Tern 13-2408 at SF Bay Center
Elegant Tern photos by Cheryl ReynoldsELTE

The Elegant Tern brought to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center last month with a gunshot wound is now flying well and on track for release, our staff reports.

“We are amazed that this bird has recovered so well after sustaining such a traumatic injury to its wing,” says Isabel Luevano, an International Bird Rescue rehabilitation technician.

“During the course of this tern’s care, we did notice that the bird was having waterproofing issues, which correlate with the bird’s entry wound at its shoulder. After two quick washes, we believe the bird is getting closer to release, and appears to be regaining its waterproofing back quickly,” Luevano says.

Anyone with information on the perpetrator or perpetrators behind this animal cruelty case should call U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Offices in Burlingame, Calif. at (650) 876-9078. Elegant Terns are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Read the original post on this case here, as well as an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.


November 1, 2013

In the news, November 1

Adélie Penguins, Paulet Island, Antarctica. Photo by Christopher Taylor, an International Bird Rescue featured photographer.

• Plans to create the world’s largest marine sanctuary in Antarctica’s Ross Sea failed for a third time Friday over the objections of several nations with fishing interests in the region.

Proposed by the US and New Zealand, the marine reserve, which at 500,000 square miles would be about the size of Peru, was scuttled after Russia and the Ukraine ran down the clock during a 10-day summit in Hobart, Australia.

Adélie Penguins and Weddell Seals are just some of the amazing animal species that call the Ross Sea home.

“This is a bad day for Antarctica and for the world’s oceans that desperately need protection,” Andrea Kavanagh, director of Pew’s Southern Ocean sanctuaries project, told the Associated Press.

Kavanagh said while she doesn’t believe the plan is dead in the water, it’s unclear how the proposal could ultimately pass. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources is scheduled to meet again in October 2014. [AP via Huffington Post]

• Among the rare bird alerts this week from the American Birding Association, a Common Swift was sighted in Riverside, CA. The sighting is likely California’s first, and as ABA reports, the species has only been seen a handful of times in North America and never in the continental US. [ABA blog]

• Attention backyard birders: Project FeederWatch launches on November 9. Find out more about this program via The Cornell Lab of Ornithology at FeederWatch.org. [All About Birds]

• A touching story of a pod of American White Pelicans that call Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA home. Since a pair of White Pelicans Pelicans at Lake Merrittmoved into the nation’s first wildlife refuge years ago (named Hector and Helen, the birds died in 1985 and 1999, respectively), the size of this pelican pod has slowly increased to between 13 and 23 individuals.

“Not only are we on a migratory path, but we also house injured and senior birds that can no longer fly with their pack,” said Stephanie Benavidez, Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge’s supervising naturalist. [Oakland Tribune; photo Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group]

• Microbeads, plastic particles found in skin care scrubs and exfoliants, are becoming a pervasive problem in many bodies of water, including the Great Lakes, scientists find. [Huffington Post Green]

• Cutting edge satellite-navigation tracking data is pinpointing locations of key feeding grounds for seabirds in the waters off Scotland. The Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds warns such feeding areas must be protected to ensure the survival of kittiwakes, razorbills and guillemots. [The Times]

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