Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for June 2014

June 26, 2014

Patient of the week: Baby Pied-billed Grebe

"Pied-Billed Grebe 14-2060 chick in care at SF Bay Center"
Photos by Cheryl Reynolds PBGR

This week, International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center received its first Pied-billed Grebe chick of the year.

Weighing about as much as eight pennies upon intake, the tiny bird was found alone at Riverfront Regional Park in Windsor, CA and transferred to us by our partners at the Bird Rescue Center in Santa Rosa.

We’re feeding this orphan plenty of fish every half hour in our intensive care unit and have administered antibiotics.

An adult Pied-billed Grebe was a patient of the week back in March. Check out what these birds look like all grown up here.

"Pied-Billed Grebe 14-2060 chick in care at SF Bay Center"

"Pied-Billed Grebe 14-2060 chick in care at SF Bay Center"

June 26, 2014

Rescuer’s account of tern and chick found hooked together


Update July 8, 2014 from our vet: “Wounds are healing well but both parent and chick still have guarded prognosis for full return to function. Chick has elbow and leg problems, parent has wing problem.” We will continue to update you when we know more. Thanks for your concern. –IBR Staff

As we posted earlier this week, our Los Angeles center recently received an adult Elegant Tern and a tern chick hooked together by a fishing lure. Found at the Terminal Island tern colony near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the birds have since been separated and are now receiving daily bandage treatment, antibiotics and plenty of supportive care. The prognosis remains guarded.

Nick Liberato, a biologist who monitors the tern colony, found the birds and took this photo upon rescue. “I spotted them as I was ushering some stray chicks back through the chick fencing and into the main rookery,” Liberato says.

“As is usually the case, tangled birds become noticeable when the rest of the colony moves away as one approaches,” he says. “At first, I thought they were just tangled in monofilament [fishing line], but when I saw that multi-hooked lure puncturing both of them, I knew my tools wouldn’t cut it, so I got them over to you guys as quickly as possible.”
June 24, 2014

Treble hook fishing lure seriously injures an adult tern and chick

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Photos by Kelly Berry

Update July 8, 2014 from our vet: “Wounds are healing well but both parent and chick still have guarded prognosis for full return to function. Chick has elbow and leg problems, parent has wing problem.” We will continue to update you when we know more. Thanks for your concern. –IBR Staff

We regularly care for seabirds seriously wounded by fishing hooks. But this case may be a tragic first.

On Monday, our Los Angeles center received an adult Elegant Tern with a chick. Both were found at Terminal Island snagged together byELTE a fishing lure with three treble hooks — one embedded in the adult’s left wing, the other two attached to the chick’s left leg and wing.

We’ve seen cases of monofilament fishing line entangling and injuring multiple seabirds, but this may be our first case of a fishing lure wounding both parent and chick, who were separated by our team and treated with antibiotics as soon as possible. At this time the prognosis is guarded.

Terns are common patients for our centers, and many have suffered at the hands of humans. We cared for oiled Sandwich Terns during the Gulf spill in 2010 and raised orphaned tern chicks during a 2006 incident were workers in Long Beach used high-pressure hoses to illegally remove hundreds of nests situated on a barge. Last fall, our San Francisco Bay center cared for an Elegant Tern with a gunshot injury — also very much illegal, as terns are protected under federal law.

We’ll keep you posted on the condition of these special patients under our team’s expert care.

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You can make a contribution to support these terns’ care by clicking here.

June 19, 2014

#TBT: Jay saving birds during the 2002 Prestige Spill in Spain


You can leave a remembrance of Jay here. Details on a memorial event will be announced soon.

June 19, 2014

Live on BirdCam: baby gulls

Birdcam gulls

The BirdCam Project at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center has featured many species of orphaned animals this spring and summer, including Wood Ducklings, Canada Goslings, Black-crowned Night Heron chicks and now baby Western Gulls.

Two of these birds were brought to us eggs from the old eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. We work together with a local environmental firm on relocating on sections of the bridge where demolition crews are working. The far eastern part of the span is home to hundreds of cormorant nests that Caltrans officials are working to move as the bridge is dismantled.

The job of encouraging these birds to move hasn’t been easy. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Biologists have been experimenting with bird decoys and cormorant recordings to get them to move to their new, rent-free pads. They even furnished the condos with nesting material. The birds reacted by simply hauling the bedding back to their old digs.”

You can check out the live cam here.

These gulls are fed mealworms as well as cut-up smelt. We limit human interaction whenever possible. Any feeding that occurs is via a puppet surrogate.

June 18, 2014

In care: Brown Pelican with an odd injury

Lead poisoned BRPE
Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Often we receive birds with inexplicable injuries. This is one such case.

Animal control officers recently transported a Brown Pelican with an injured foot to our Los Angeles center. Our veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, found and removed two sharp, wood objects that had impeded the bird’s ability to bear weight on its foot.

And that was just the beginning. Dr. Duerr then found a fishing hook embedded in the back of the bird’s throat requiring surgery to retrieve. During surgery, more hook fragments were found in the pelican’s stomach, all of which also were removed.

And here’s the mystery injury: The x-ray you see here shows a large metal object embedded in the pelican’s synsacrum, or pelvis. It was lodged deep in a hole adjacent to the spinal cord, completely surrounded by bone. Dr. Duerr initially assumed this metal object was a bullet of some kind, but upon cleaning it off after surgery, noted that it looked more like a fishing sinker.

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If that’s the case, how would a 12 millimeter-long fishing sinker get embedded in the pelvis of a pelican? Speculation so far has settled on a high powered slingshot or some sort of homemade ammunition. Tests came back positive for lead toxicity, for which this bird is currently undergoing treatment.

Pelicans with fishing line or tackle-related injuries continue to flood our centers this summer. Monofilament line can create horrible constriction wounds and hooks may penetrate joints or other crucial anatomic areas. If you see fishing line or hooks in the environment, you can do the birds and other animals a huge favor by carefully picking it up and disposing of it properly.

This likely cruelty case comes about two months after the Pink the Pelican story.

June 11, 2014

Jay Holcomb, 1951-2014

FAIRFIELD, Calif. (June 11, 2014) — International Bird Rescue executive director Jay Holcomb, an icon in the world of wildlife rehabilitation and a relentless pioneer in oiled wildlife care since the 1970s, has died. He was 63.

Holcomb passed away in Modesto, Calif. on June 10, 2014, surrounded by friends and family members. The cause of death was kidney cancer, according to Holcomb’s family.

Under his direction, International Bird Rescue grew into one of the world’s preeminent wildlife organizations, caring for animals affected by large-scale oil spills such as Exxon Valdez in 1989 and the Gulf Spill in 2010, where Holcomb and his team cared for pelicans, gannets and other birds harmed by the environmental disaster.

Donate to Jay Holcomb Memorial Fund

“For decades, Jay was a singular force in saving wild birds everywhere, giving a voice to the animals who need it most,” said Susan Kaveggia, board chair of International Bird Rescue. “We can never replace him. But we can follow in his footsteps and continue to inspire others to care for wildlife in his memory.”

Holcomb began his career in wildlife rehabilitation over 40 years ago, having assisted in efforts to help birds affected by a large oil spill in the San Francisco Bay in 1971 — an environmental catastrophe that led to the founding later that year of International Bird Rescue Research Center (the organization shortened its name to International Bird Rescue in 2010).

Holcomb became executive director of International Bird Rescue in 1986 and has held director and director emeritus roles since then. During his leadership, the organization led or co-led oiled wildlife efforts at some of the world’s largest oil spill emergencies, from the MV Erika Spill in France to the Treasure Spill in South Africa. During the Gulf Spill in 2010, International Bird Rescue’s response team was mobilized in four states.

“I’ve devoted my career to wildlife rehabilitation,” Holcomb wrote in his organization’s 2013 annual report. “It’s an often unsung, crisis-based field, and the challenges in the work are many. But I can’t think of anything more rewarding I could have done with my life.”

In addition to his many published contributions to oiled wildlife care research, Holcomb launched the jay_peli_CB_spillBlue-Banded Pelican Project in 2009 to better track the post-release success of California Brown Pelicans cared for at International Bird Rescue’s two centers in California. He was a 2010 recipient of Oceana’s Ocean Heroes Award and the 2010 John Muir Conservationist of the Year Award for his work. Holcomb also received the 1996 National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) Lifetime Achievement Award.

A staunch defender of global efforts to care for wildlife impacted by oil spills, Holcomb was featured in the 2011 Emmy Award-winning documentary Saving Pelican 895 about International Bird Rescue’s efforts to save oiled birds in the Gulf spill.

Populations are made up of individuals, and if you start looking at individuals as if they’re not important, then ultimately the population becomes unimportant,” Holcomb said of his work in the film.

Jay Burch Holcomb was born in San Francisco on April 16, 1951 and lived there until he was 9 years old. His family then moved to San Anselmo in Marin County.

“Very early in my life, I became aware that I had a sense of purpose that I could not shake — nor did I want to — so I just lived as I was compelled to,” Holcomb recalled in 2011. “At age 5 or so, I became aware of an intense desire to help animals but had no idea how to make it happen. I held that knowingness in my mind, knew it would happen, and basically allowed it to unfold in front of me.”

After graduating from high school, Holcomb worked at the Marin Humane Society before joining International Jay w RaccoonBird Rescue, founded in 1971 by Alice Berkner. “Alice and I agreed that this organization was and should be for the birds and about the birds, with every action taken to be in their best interest,” Holcomb told Bay Nature magazine in 2010. “In 40 years, we have never wavered from that promise.”

Holcomb is survived by his mother, Joan Finney, two sisters, Judy Craven and Marianne Groth; brother, Don Stauffer; niece, Wendy Massey; nephew, Kenneth Craven; goddaughter, Elizabeth Russell; and close friends, Mark Russell and Russ Curtis.

Per his wishes, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a memorial fund established in Holcomb’s name benefiting wildlife rescue efforts at International Bird Rescue. Go here: Jay Holcomb Memorial Fund.

If you prefer to give by check, contributions may be mailed to:

International Bird Rescue
Attn: Jay Holcomb Memorial Fund
4369 Cordelia Road
Fairfield, CA 94534

Barbara Callahan, a longtime senior staff member of International Bird Rescue who trained under Holcomb and serves as global response director, has been appointed interim executive director of the organization by the board of directors.

A public memorial is planned, details of which will be announced soon.

Our original post on the news of Jay’s death has a comment thread of dozens of people whose lives Jay touched. Click here to leave your own remembrance.

More obituaries and remembrances:

New York Times/AP: Jay Holcomb, Pioneer in Bird Rescue, Dies at 63

Los Angeles Times: Jay Holcomb, longtime leader in seabird rescue and rehab, dies at 63

San Francisco Chronicle: Jay Holcomb, beloved bird rescuer, dead at 63

Daily Breeze: Jay Holcomb, 1951-2014: International Bird Rescue center director dies at the age of 63

Jay’s Bird Blog

Jay with Bird Rescue founder Alice Berkner

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Jay at a KNX-1070 open house event at IBR’s Los Angeles center, 2013

June 10, 2014

Mourning the loss of Jay Holcomb, our hero

Jay-Holcomb-International-Bird-RescueIt is with great sorrow that we share with you the news that International Bird Rescue Executive Director Jay Holcomb has passed away. Jay was surrounded by family and friends upon his passing in Modesto, Calif. on June 10, 2014.

For decades, Jay was a force of nature in his mission to save wild birds all over the world, giving a voice to the animals who need it most and teaching us to follow in his footsteps. We offer our deepest sympathies to his family at this time.

Because of Jay’s spirit and dedication, International Bird Rescue during his tenure grew into a global leader in wildlife rehabilitation — training animal professionals all over the world in emergency response and inspiring new generations of environmental advocates.

Barbara Callahan, our longtime Director of Response Services and a global expert on aquatic wildlife, will serve as Interim Executive Director during this difficult time. Thank you, Barbara, for your leadership and devotion to a cause that Jay cared so much about.

A memorial service is planned, and details will be announced soon.

Friend, mentor, hero: Jay, you are forever in our hearts. Thank you for devoting your life to animals. We cannot think of a more noble pursuit. — IBR Board of Directors

Read Jay’s obituary here.

Per his wishes, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a memorial fund established in Holcomb’s name benefiting wildlife rescue efforts at International Bird Rescue. We have set up a Jay Holcomb Memorial Fund page here.

We also wanted to share with you some wonderful words from Jay, written on the occasion of our 40th Montana 43 7.21.11 Hayden Nevill Jay rinsing c hawkanniversary in 2011:

I am a wildlife rehabilitator; that’s been my career and my life. All I have ever wanted to get across was the value, importance and beauty of animals, and to accept some accountability and responsibility for their welfare – especially when they are impacted by human activity.

This desire was born out of watching and befriending animals as a kid, and by listening to disturbing things that people thought of them.

Very early in my life, I became aware that I had a sense of purpose that I could not shake – nor did I want to – so I just lived as I was compelled to. At age 5 or so, I became aware of an intense desire to help animals but had no idea how to make it happen. I held that knowingness in my mind, knew it would happen, and basically allowed it to unfold in front of me. 


We would love to hear any remembrances you have of Jay. You can leave a note on the comments section of this ongoing memorial thread below. We’ll be putting together a book of these remembrances for Jay’s family and will have it on display for an upcoming memorial service.

June 9, 2014

Black-crowned Night Herons released in Oakland marsh

Four of five juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons released at MLK Jr. Shoreline Regional Park in Oakland. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

We think it’s safe to say that most citizens of the Bay Area now know what a Black-crowned Night Heron BCNHis….

The subject of extensive media attention in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, local TV news and NBC’s The Today Show, five baby Black-crowned Night Herons — a federally protected species — were injured in early May after falling from their nests during a tree-trimming incident at a U.S. Post Office location.

All herons were brought to WildCare in Marin County for initial treatment before transfer to International Bird Rescue San Francisco Bay center, which specializes in herons and other aquatic species.

The injured herons have been treated for injuries sustained from the fall, with one baby heron suffering a fractured mandible that required surgery and healed remarkably. Ernesto Pulido, the proprietor of the tree-trimming business, immediately stepped forward to pay for the care of these animals.


Yassira Murphy, a young birder from Oakland Tech High School, releases a juvenile heron. Photo by Rick Lewis via Golden Gate Audubon

Fast-forward to this past Saturday, where we were proud to work with Golden Gate Audubon Society on a release event at Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline Park in Oakland. Four of the five herons from this incident were successfully released; the fifth is still in care but doing well (a fifth bird ready for release joined the other four at MLK Shoreline’s New Marsh). Thank you to Mr. Pulido as well for stopping by!

These are some of the dozens of herons we’ve cared for this season. You can support their ongoing care here.

Other good news: Our friends at Golden Gate Audubon have put together a wonderful pamphlet on tree-trimming and baby birds season that you can download here. A Spanish-language version will be released soon.

And thank you to all the birders who came out to see our patients off! We were happy to see these young herons start hunting for prey at the marsh within a half hour of release.



June 9, 2014

Black Rail, banded and released

Photo by Isabel Luevano

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).BLRA

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.”

This spring, our San Francisco Bay center cared for a baby Black Rail, a victim of cat predation that suffered a broken mandible. Researchers with the Black Rail Project at the University of California-Berkeley banded the bird once its injuries had healed and it was old enough to be released.

We’re happy to report this bird was released at Petaluma Marsh, where it was originally found!

June 6, 2014

The week in bird news, June 6


• Southern California Public Radio takes an in-depth look at how a lack of prey availability, perhaps driven by an El Nino climate event, has impacted Brown Pelican breeding this year. Breeding failure among Brown Pelicans has been observed in Baja California, where 80-90% of California Brown Pelicans breed.

“It’s been almost a nearly complete failure to breed, which is quite unusual actually,” said Dan Anderson, a professor emeritus at University of California-Davis who has visited Baja for 46 years to survey pelican breeding. “At one island that we study, Isla Salvatierra, which would normally have 8,000-10,000 young, only had like 20 young.” [Southern California Public Radio/KPCC]

• The New York Times reports on the saga over Black-crowned Night Herons in Oakland. IBR is pleased to report that four of the five herons are scheduled for a release on Saturday! (The fifth remains in care but is doing very well.) [New York Times]

• Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Pink the Pelican is released! LAT produces a great video as well on the rehabilitation journey for this special animal. [Los Angeles Times]

• Anna Weinstein of Audubon California has an insightful update on advocacy efforts to ensure proper monitoring of the California Brown Pelican, de-listed from the Endangered Species Act five years ago. [Audublog]

• Wildlife rehabilitators on a mission to save birds of prey in New Dehli, India. [Al Jazeera]

• One final pelican note: Congrats to filmmaker Judy Irving for reaching her Kickstarter goal on Pelican Dreams, her forthcoming documentary. Watch a trailer of the film below. [Vimeo]

Pelican Dreams – Trailer from Judy Irving on Vimeo.

June 5, 2014

Bay Area bird lovers: You’re invited to a heron release!

Release site at MLK Jr. Regional Shoreline Park in Oakland

At least two of the young Black-crowned Night Herons injured during an Oakland tree-trimming incident that made national headlines have healed from their wounds and are ready for release in East Bay marsh habitat on Saturday, June 7. And you’re invited!


WHEN: Saturday, June 7 at 1 P.M.

WHERE: Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park, Southwest entrance across from 80 Swan Way (see map above).

WHO: This event is hosted by International Bird Rescue and Golden Gate Audubon Society, longtime partners in the conservation of local aquatic birds.

The remaining birds from this incident continue to receive care from International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center until they are old enough to be released. All of them are on track and doing well!

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June 4, 2014

Release! Pink the Pelican

L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino releases Pink. Photos and video by Bill Steinkamp and Kira Perov (volume adjustment on lower right of video control panel)

Pink, a California Brown Pelican and now arguably one of the most famous patients in International Bird Rescue history, was successfully released on Tuesday afternoon at White Point Park in San Pedro, CA, by L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, assisted by a lovely young girl excited to see the bird off on its next adventures.

As you may have read, less than seven weeks ago this animal was brought to our Los Angeles center with its throat pouch nearly severed off its bill. A human-caused injury, the incident sparked outrage among animal lovers in Southern California and beyond. A $20,000 reward is still being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this illegal act. Tips may be made anonymous to US Fish and Wildlife Service at 310-328-1516.

Thank you to everyone who helped support the care of this bird, including the Port of Long Beach, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, Terranea Resort and countless bird lovers in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the country.

After two surgeries and weeks in care, this pelican made a record recovery and was very eager for release from our large pelican aviary. As part of our Blue-Banded Pelican Program, we banded Pink with a blue band reading V70. If you see Pink out along the Pacific Coast, you can report your sighting here.

Releases are always powerful experiences that cut through the madness of modern life. International Bird Rescue’s “Every Bird Matters” mantra was definitely the theme of the day. Photographer Bill Steinkamp was on hand to take some wonderful photos of the event. Enjoy!



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June 4, 2014

IBR veterinarian on NBC’s Today Show Talking About Injured Baby Herons

Our own staff veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr was on The Today Show to talk about Bird Rescue’s care of injured baby herons from an unfortunate situation in Oakland, CA involving the trimming of ficus trees that disrupted an urban rookery.

Young Black-crowned Night-Herons saved from the Oakland tree-trimming event. Photo: International Bird Rescue

We are proud to have reached out to the proprietor of the tree-trimming business, Ernesto Pulido, early on in this case. Mr. Pulido was contrite and offered remuneration for the cost of the birds’ care, which included surgical procedures.

In mid-May, we invited Mr. Pulido to our San Francisco Bay center to check in on these animals — an invitation he quickly accepted. It was a wonderful meeting; we believe this situation can serve as a powerful cautionary tale on the consequences of tree-trimming in the spring, when nesting is in high gear.

Meanwhile, the injured birds are doing well at our center and are nearing a release date.

More: Director’s note on the Oakland heron incident


June 1, 2014

Weekend muses: An egret family

Photo © Silvermans Photography

If only all of our family portraits could be this perfect …

A banded Snowy Egret cared for by our SF Bay center team, now in the wild and with chicks.

Check out photographers Susan and Neil Silverman’s work at silvermansphotography.com.