Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for September 2015

September 25, 2015

Patient of the Week: Red-Footed Booby

Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Rare visitor: Red-Footed Booby in care at Los Angeles Center. Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Photo of Red-Footed Booby was found at the Redondo Beach fishing pier. Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck

Red-Footed Booby was found at the Redondo Beach fishing pier. Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck

We are treating a Red-Footed Booby – a very rare visitor to Southern California – at our Los Angeles Center.

The seabird was found September 13th by Redondo Beach Animal Control on the Redondo Beach fishing pier. The officer observed that the bird was not moving.

Upon initial exam, the Booby was found to be molting with very poor feather quality. It had some mild eye trauma that has since been resolved.

The bird is doing well and it recently got moved into the aviary. The clinic staff is working on getting the bird to self feed, so, for now, it is getting supplemental nutrition​ and hydration. We will keep you updated on it’s progress.

The Red-Footed Booby (Sula sula) is among the smallest of Boobies. It’s a strong flier and will fly long distances in search of food.

This species is an uncommon west coast visitor and has been seen only rarely along the California coast. The Red-Footed Booby usually can be found in tropical and sub-tropical waters across the globe.

September 22, 2015

Exhausted, Starving Seabirds Continue To Swamp San Francisco Bay Center

Small mouth, big belly: Hungry Common Murres, including many young seabirds, are filling the San Francisco Bay Center. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds

Small mouth, big belly: Hungry Common Murres, including many young seabirds, are filling the San Francisco Bay Center. Photo: International Bird Rescue

An unprecedented number of exhausted, hungry seabirds continue to flood International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center. More than 250 rescued Common Murres – mostly young, malnourished chicks unable to maintain their weight and body temperature – have been delivered to the center in the last few weeks.

“The huge flow of stranded seabirds into our center has not slowed.” says Michelle Bellizzi, Center Manager at Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center. ”Just today we received 37 new patients in need of care. Our staff and volunteers are working long hours to make sure these birds get a second chance.”

Murre-Adopt-Button

The number of Murres this year is exceptional – especially since Bird Rescue rarely sees more than ten of this bird species in one month during the late summer and early fall.

The life-saving care these seabirds require is not cheap and continues to strain Bird Rescue’s resources. Donations are needed more than ever. You can symbolically adopt a Murre by donating online

“Thanks to some generous donations we have been able to bring one additional pool online and two more will be completed this week,” adds JD Bergeron, Executive Director of Bird Rescue, “but the costs of care, feeding, medication, and additional staff time continue to add up. During these emergency events we rely heavily on the support of our donors and other bird lovers.”

115 Common Murres ic care as of September 22, 2015. Photo: Russ Curtis

115 Common Murres ic care as of September 22, 2015. Photo: Russ Curtis

Murres in care can be viewed on Bird Rescue’s Live BirdCam: http://bird-rescue.org/birdcam/birdcam-1.aspx

Along the coast, the public and trained citizen scientists have been spotting not just live birds, but an unusually high number of dead birds on Northern California beaches. On Rodeo Beach in Marin County earlier this month, beach walkers counted 80 dead seabirds – mostly Common Murres.

The sight of so many starving seabirds has raised red flags among seabird scientists. These scientists surmise that as waters warm along the California coast, diving birds starve as fish go deeper to reach cooler waters, putting themselves out of the birds’ reach. This summer Northern California coastal waters have warmed 5 to 10 degrees above historical averages.

What’s happening to these seabirds is important. Common Murres serve as a key indicator species for ocean conservation. Their numbers are trending downward with documented changes in fish stocks, chronic oil spills, and interactions with humans.

The Common Murre (Uria aalge) looks very much like a small penguin. The public often reports seeing “little penguins” stranded on Bay Area beaches, what they are really seeing are Murres. Unlike Penguins, Common Murres can fly.

Murres spend most their lives out to sea, except when nesting on rocky cliffs. They are superb divers—essentially “flying” through water by using their wings to propel themselves. They can dive in excess of 200 feet below the surface to forage.

September 14, 2015

State Labs: Mystery Goo Identified as Polymerized Oil, Similar to Vegetable Oil

Bufflehead coated with mystery goo during intake exam in January 2015.

Bufflehead coated with mystery goo during intake exam in January 2015.

In January, a “mystery goo” coated more than 500 seabirds along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay. The goo has now been further identified by state labs as a “polymerized oil, most similar to vegetable oil.”

While in an oil spill, a responsible party steps forward to pay for the costs of cleanup, there was – and still is – no identified responsible party for the Mystery Goo. However, International Bird Rescue (“Bird Rescue”) took the lead after 323 live birds with the sticky substance were captured and transported to our San Francisco Bay Center. Bird Rescue was able to clean and rehabilitate 165 birds and release them back into the wild. An additional 170 birds were found dead. An unknown number of other birds were assumed killed because of predation or other factors.

State labs led by scientists at California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, and the California Department of Public Health in an effort to identify the material.

According to the report issued on September 11, 2015:

“The ‘goo’ was composed of a mixture of oils that contained polymers made up of fatty acids and triglycerides, and was most likely plant-derived. Petroleum products or animal fats were not detected through various chemical analyses. The presence of polymers (very large molecules made up of repeating smaller units), helps explain the gummy to hard nature of this substance.”

“This may be as close as we get,” said said Daniel Orr, environmental scientist with the California Fish and Wildlife Service. “I wish we had more to go on, but without a ‘pure’ sample or new investigative lead we may be at a standstill.”

The state and federal labs issued a preliminary report back on February 12 concluding that the substance included a mixture of non-petroleum-based fats or oils. See earlier blog post

The sticky goo resembled rubber cement and covered and matted the feathers of seabirds, limited their ability to stay warm, take flight, float and forage for food. No goo was found to be on the beach or in the water, which deepened the mystery.

Horned Grebe aka "Gummy Bear" came with super gunked feathers, 3 weeks later it was released clean.

One goo bird, a Horned Grebe aka “Gummy Bear,” came to Bird Rescue with super gunky feathers (left). After 3 weeks in care it was cleaned and healthy and was released back to the wild. (Photos by Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue)

Each of the birds was medically stabilized and then cleaned using a combination of baking soda and vinegar, followed by washing with Dawn detergent, and rinse to repair waterproofing.

Surf Scoters comprised 70% of birds brought in for care.

Surf Scoters comprised 70% of birds brought in for care.

The birds treated included: Surf Scoters, Horned Grebes, Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, and Scaups. More than 70% the bird affected were Surf Scoters.

The birds were rescued beginning on January 16, 2015, along the East Bay shoreline from Alameda south to Hayward. All of the live birds came in to Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center in Fairfield, CA. The last impacted bird came in on January 22.

Our friends at Wildlife Emergency Services (WES) helped lead the capture efforts in the field, alongside Bird Rescue staff.

Many of the birds arrived with pressure sores to their hocks or toes from being stranded on hard land, and took two or three months to treat. Several dozen birds had surgeries for keel injuries but most of these healed quickly. The last bird in care, a male Surf Scoter, was released back to the wild on April 15th – nearly three months following the incident.

With no responsible party to help with the cost of bird care, International Bird Rescue’s relied on public and foundation support to pay the $150,000 bill. This was a superb example of public-private partnership which Bird Rescue hopes to replicate for future unforeseeable events to ensure high quality care and sufficient supplies are on hand. You can support our Emergency Response capacity by donating here.

The goo incident still remains under investigation. If you have any information on the incident, contact California’s CalTIP line at 1-888-334-2258 or download the free CalTIP smartphone App. All reports are confidential.

Hundreds of Surf Scoters were among the 323 seabirds brought into care during the "Mystery Goo" event.

Hundreds of Surf Scoters were among the 323 seabirds brought into care during the “Mystery Goo” event.

September 10, 2015

The Release Files: Snowy Egrets

SNEG-release-LA1-9-2015

SNEG

Two Snowy Egrets were released back to the wild this week by IBR staff and volunteers at Ballona Wetlands in Playa del Rey, CA. One of the birds had a toe amputation and required extra care the other was a short term patient. Thanks to Doug Carter for the wonder photos.

Love Snowy Egrets? You can symbolically adopt one through our bird adoption program: http://bird-rescue.org/adopt-snowy-egret.aspx

SNEG-release-LA2-9-2015

SNEG-release-LA3-9-2015

September 2, 2015

Seabirds Are Overwhelming International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Center

Murres-pool-9-2015

More than 150 stranded Common Murres have come in for care at IBR’s San Francisco Bay Center in Fairfield. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center has been hit by an uncommon wave of Common Murres—more than 150 of them in August. The majority of these seabirds are young, malnourished chicks, exhausted and unable to maintain their body temperature.

Murre-Adopt-ButtonTo help in the quest to save the lives of these numerous vulnerable and needy seabird patients, IBR is asking for support from the bird-appreciating public.

“This is an unusually large post-breeding event and is severely straining our bird center resources,” said Michelle Bellizzi, manager of IBR’s San Francisco Bay Center. “We hope the public will help by donating to care for these birds.”

At our already busy center, the murre patients are taking over — especially in the outdoor pelagic pools. The number of murres this year is exceptional – especially since IBR rarely sees more than 10 of these bird species in one month during the summer. Check out the live BirdCam

COMU-hatchling-pool-cry

Hatchling year Common Murres are among the most seabird patients in care.

To most people, the Common Murre (Uria aalge) looks very much like a small penguin; in fact, the public often reports seeing “little penguins” stranded on the Bay area beaches when, in fact, they’re seeing murres. In contrast to Penguins, which are flightless and live in southern oceans, Common Murres are diving seabirds that can fly, and that breed and feed widely along the Pacific Coast from central California to Alaska.

Except when nesting, which they do on rocky cliffs, murres spend their lives in and on the water and are nothing less than super-divers—essentially “flying” through water by using their wings to propel themselves and diving in excess of 200 feet below the surface to forage.

As for what’s at the root of this huge influx of ailing Common Murres, no one knows for sure. Some scientists surmise that as waters warm along the California coast, diving birds starve as fish go deeper to reach cooler waters, putting themselves out of the birds’ reach. This summer Northern California coastal waters have seen an increase of 5 to 10 degrees above historical averages.

Whatever the issue, what’s happening to these seabirds is important, since Common Murres have served as a key indicator species for ocean conservation for many years, and their numbers have been trending downwards with documented changes in fish stocks, chronic oil spills, and interactions with humans.

Even in the best of times, IBR relies on public support to treat and feed ill and injured seabirds each year—more than 5,000 patients are cared for annually at IBR’s two California centers.

Right now, Common Murres needing life-saving care are proving extra-challenging and are truly testing IBR’s resources. Donations are greatly needed and greatly appreciated. And for those who wish to donate in the form of a symbolic “adoption” of a murre, they can do so at http://bird-rescue.org/adopt-murre