Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for April 2017

April 28, 2017

Update: Loon Crisis Along Southern California Coast

The month of April has not been kind to seabirds in Southern California. Hundreds of aquatic birds – especially Loons – have been found emaciated and sick along Ventura County beaches.

You can help: Adopt a Loon

More than 80 affected birds have come into care at our Los Angeles Wildlife Center since April 1st. The bulk of the rescued seabirds have been Loons. So far 76 Loons (52 Pacific Loons and 24 Red-throated Loons), a handful of Common Murres and Scoters, and one Brown Pelican have come to us due to this event.

Some Good News: 15 healthy birds from the event were rehabilitated and released back to the wild: 13 Loons and 3 Murres. Watch the release video

The culprit is more than likely a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) in the Pacific Ocean. The algae that make up these blooms can produce Domoic Acid, a toxin that causes neurological issues in mammals and birds that eat anchovies, sardines, and crustaceans that have eaten the toxic algae.

Volunteers with the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network have rescued the bulk of the affected birds. According to reports, around 300 birds have been picked up alive from local beaches, while hundreds more have been found dead. Many birds died shortly after recue but those that survived more than a short time were transferred to Bird Rescue’s center in San Pedro, CA. Some of the birds were injured while having seizures on the beach and will require several weeks in care to heal their wounds once recovered from their neurologic problems.

The good news is that we have already released 15 rehabilitated birds (12 Loons and 3 Murres) back to the wild in Morro Bay on April 26th. We released so far away on advice from CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife in order to get the birds away from the algae bloom areas. We hope to have another group of loons ready to release next week. Treating birds affected by domoic acid involves intensive medication regimens and fluid therapy to clear the bird of toxin and treat any abnormal neurologic symptoms.

Please donate now to help support our care of these amazing birds!

“Rescue agencies, research laboratories, and wildlife centers are still compiling data and performing necropsies, but there’s a likely culprit for many of the mortalities: domoic acid, a toxin produced by algae that bloom in the waters off the West Coast, called Pseudo-nitzschia. Dave Caron, a professor of Biological Sciences at USC, runs a laboratory that studies harmful algal blooms. His lab recently analyzed samples from 32 sick sea lions, all of which tested positive for domoic acid toxicity. He’s also had a positive test from a brown pelican brought to International Bird Rescue. Among sea lions, pregnant females are most likely to be affected, and many are prematurely giving birth in Southern California marine centers to pups too young to survive.”

– From a report by the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper

Bird Rescue continues to see more frequent indicators of climate change, warmer seas that include dangerous HABs and Domoic acid outbreaks.

Learn more about Domoic Acid

 

April 19, 2017

High Numbers of Beached Birds Showing Up Along the Southern California Coast

A large number of beached sick and emaciated seabirds rescued along Santa Barbara’s coastline are flooding into International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife center. More than 40 birds, especially Red-throated and Pacific Loons have arrived into care at the center located in San Pedro.

Currently the exact cause of these stranded birds is unknown. However, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife is investigating this as a possible Domoic Acid event. Domoic Acid is a naturally occurring toxin caused by a marine algal bloom. Seabirds and other marine animals that eat infected fish and crustaceans with this neurotoxin, can exhibit sluggishness and brain seizures, and even death. More on Domoic Acid

“The old saying about the ‘Canary in the coal mine’ is real! Birds are very sensitive indicators of environmental change,” said JD Bergeron, Executive Director of International Bird Rescue. “Now, we’re seeing ‘Loons on the shoreline’ and it is up to people to figure out what’s going wrong.”

Pacific Loon, above, and mix of Loons, top, are filling pools at Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Center. Photos by Katrina Plummer

In the meantime, this unusual seabird stranding is taxing Bird Rescue’s resources. They are asking for the public’s help to care for these sick seabirds. Treatment of each bird can cost upwards of $25 to $45 per day, depending on the medications and specific care each bird requires. You can donate online: https://www.bird-rescue.org/get-involved/donate

Loons are one of the more challenging families of birds that we treat. They are high stress, strictly pelagic (deep water), and are susceptible to the onset of secondary problems while in care. Some of the loons currently in care are also suffering from neurological issues and need to have special medications to calm mild seizure-like behaviors.

“For loons, the hardest part is getting them floating on water as quickly as possible under the careful eye of experienced staff,” said Kylie Clatterbuck, Center Manager for Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife center. “Gearing up for a large group of animals requires preparation, supreme organization, and knowledge of the species with which you are working.”

The Santa Barbara Channel is also a busy spot for Loons and other migrating birds moving northward to summer breeding locations.

Thanks to our partners at Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network who are coordinating the rescue and transport of these sickened birds.

What to do if you spot a beached bird

If possible, contact your local wildlife rehab group or animal control agency. If you feel comfortable to rescue it yourself, please follow these TEMPORARY care instructions:

  • Find a medium/large-sized box and place a folded towel at the bottom.
  • Ensure there are holes in the box big enough for airflow.
  • Place the bird in the box and keep in a dark, quiet place.
  • Keep the bird warm.
  • Please don’t feed the bird.
  • Leave the bird alone; don’t handle or bother it and always keep children and pets away.

 Additional information

In 2007: Deadly Domoic Acid killing record numbers of animals in Southern California

April 18, 2017

Teaming Up with Oakland Zoo, and Golden Gate Audubon to Save Wild Baby Herons in Downtown Oakland

True to its roots: Black-crowned Night-Heron sports a leg bandage wrap in the Oakland As baseball colors. Photo: Isabel Luevano-International Bird Rescue

For the second consecutive year, a community partnership among like-minded wildlife organizations have teamed up to help save fledgling Black-Crowned Night Herons and Snowy Egrets that have fallen from their tree nests onto the busy streets of Downtown Oakland.

Working together, International Bird Rescue (Bird Rescue), Oakland Zoo, and the Golden Gate Audubon Society (GGAS), will make sure these young birds get the best care possible.

“Urban nesters like Black-crowned Night-Herons are in trouble ” said JD Bergeron, Executive Director of International Bird Rescue. “Their traditional nesting sites are now surrounded by busy streets and hard concrete, as well as people and cars.”

“At Bird Rescue, we have developed a specialty in treating injured baby herons, but we rely heavily on members of the public, and partnerships like the one with Golden Gate Audubon and Oakland Zoo, to help find birds in peril and to transport them to our center. We have treated more than 800 baby herons and egrets [from Oakland and the greater Bay-Delta area] in just one season!,” added Bergeron.

Donate to help Egrets and Herons

About 130 nests have been identified – making Oakland the largest rookery, or nesting colony, of Black-crowned Night-Herons in the Bay Area. So far six young birds have been rescued in the spring 2017 nesting season.

Thanks to trained volunteers from Golden Gate Audubon, the streets in the vicinity of the rookery nests are checked daily for fallen and injured birds. Oakland Zoo staff also check the rookery each morning.

When fallen birds are found, Oakland Zoo staff retrieve birds from its reported location, provide intermediary treatment, if necessary, and then transport the bird to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center for long-term care. Having the Zoo’s experienced animal handlers providing as on-call rescue dispatch is a crucial component of this partnership.

“We are thrilled to once again be part of this team effort to save these beautiful baby herons. The opportunity to take ‘Action for Wildlife,’ is important to us, around the world and right here in our city of Oakland,” said Amy Gotliffe, Conservation Director at Oakland Zoo.

Baby Black-crowned Night-Herons from the downtown Oakland, CA rookery in care at Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center. Photo: Isabel Luevano-International Bird Rescue

Once the birds are delivered to our center in Fairfield, a world-leading wild aquatic bird rehabilitative care organization, the care provided will help them develop the full range of skills needed for survival, such as self-feeding and flight. Like last year, the rehabilitated birds will be released into safe and appropriate local habitat, including Oakland’s Bay shoreline. In August 2016 nearly two dozen Oakland birds were successfully released.

This year Bird Rescue is attaching red colored leg bands to all the rehabilitated Oakland herons so that the young herons can be returned to their native Oakland when they are full-grown. The team is also using bandages (“vet wrap”) in green and gold – Oakland A’s baseball team colors.

In addition to monitoring the Oakland heron colony for fallen and injured birds, GGAS has been putting up educational posters to inform Oakland residents about the herons. A dozen GGAS volunteers have been trained to monitor the colony closely and report birds in trouble.

“Last year we learned how effective partnerships can be in protecting urban wildlife,” said Cindy Margulis, Executive Director of Golden Gate Audubon Society. “We’re so pleased that these three organizations are cooperating again to save the lives of young birds hatched in a less-than-ideal location.”

The dramatic-looking Night-Herons are longtime residents of Oakland and can frequently be seen foraging for fish, insects, and other food around Lake Merritt and on the estuary shoreline. They are so distinctive and beloved that third graders at Oakland’s Park Day School have launched a change.org petition to make them the official bird of Oakland.

In addition to Golden Gate Audubon, Oakland Zoo, and Bird Rescue, local wildlife organizations WildCare of Marin County and Lindsay Wildlife Experience of Contra Costa County are also assisting with heron rescue this year.

 

April 11, 2017

Don’t Make April the Cruelest Month: Please Trim Trees in the Fall

Released Snowy Egret A69 nesting with chicks at 9th Street Rookery in Santa Rosa, CA. Photo by Susan and Neil Silverman Photography.

April is Baby Dinosaur Month at Bird Rescue! As we celebrate the sometimes-awkward beauty of young egrets and herons, we would also like to make a plea for responsible tree trimming. Bird nests can be hard to spot–from the bird’s perspective, that’s the intention! So please, please do not even think about trimming trees during nesting season. Schedule your trees to be trimmed starting in the fall from September to January and still check thoroughly for occupied nests. The Golden Gate Audubon Society has a helpful page to help guide you here.

Black-crowned Night-Herons in care. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds-International Bird Rescue.

Back in 2014, a federal agency in downtown Oakland contracted with a local tree trimmer to trim ficus trees that were serving as the home of a bustling urban rookery. The results were a horrifying and a number of nesting Black-crowned Night-Herons were killed and injured in the tree trimming. Bird Rescue cared for the ones that were saved from incident. Since that time, however, our friends at Golden Gate Audubon, the Oakland Zoo, and a group of superb volunteers have combined efforts to monitor this rookery, deal with fallen and injured babies, transport them to Bird Rescue for care, and releasing them in public ceremonies to draw more attention to these birds.

Just last year we cared for more than 800 young herons and egrets. Many of them arrived from local rookeries in Santa Rosa, Oakland, Fairfield , and Long Beach. These pre-historic looking water birds take a lot of care and we rely on the generosity of people just like you to help get them back to the wild. Please help by adopting one of these “baby dinosaurs”!

In the meantime, please consider supporting our important work with wildlife. Adopt-a-Heron-Egret or donate. Thanks!

 

April 8, 2017

Intern Helps Make Sense of Re-encounter Data From Previously Released Birds

Research intern Andrew Zhu’s poster shows a few intriguing cases of oiled birds’ post-release success. Download research roster: Analysis of Individual Oiled Bird Re-encounter Data 2002-2015 (PDF)

Thanks to a generous grant from the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation (HCBF), International Bird Rescue (Bird Rescue) offers academic internships that provide learning opportunities for Southern California students and a more detailed research findings of wildlife rescue for the scientific community.

Andrew was honored with a 2017 Taking the Pulse of the Planet Award, presented by NOAA.

One recent intern was Andrew Zhu, a Palos Verdes Peninsula High School junior, who began his academic internship at Bird Rescue during his summer break in June 2016. For his intern research project, Andrew chose to analyze re-encounter data on previously oiled, washed, and released birds, all of which had been outfitted with a metal federal band at the time of their release. The re-encounter data consists of reports from members of the public who have found and reported a banded bird, dead or sometimes even alive. Andrew compiled information from these band reports and the corresponding patient paperwork from each bird’s stay at Bird Rescue. Although his dataset was fairly small, there were some pretty interesting findings. Check out Andrew’s poster to see the intriguing cases he uncovered!

Recently, Andrew submitted his research poster to the Palos Verdes Peninsula Science and Engineering Fair, held on March 14, 2017. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded him the 2017 Taking the Pulse of the Planet Award.

“My experience at Bird Rescue is one that I will always remember. During my time here, I probably learned more information than I would have in 300 hours of school,” says Andrew Zhu.

“Not only was I greeted by warm and passionate staff members every day, but I also learned a great deal about the detrimental effects of oil spills on aquatic wildlife, a bird’s anatomy, and the formal research process. Perhaps some of the most memorable moments were watching Dr. Becky perform surgery on a Great Blue Heron who was shot twice and a Western Gull who had parasitic worms in its eyes,” added Zhu.

About the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation

The HCBF offers community grants to organizations in San Pedro and Wilmington, California, to help mitigate the impact of local ports on these two communities. Our grant funds HCBF interns so they can learn about the effects of oil on wildlife, get hands-on experience in rehabilitating aquatic birds, and conduct research to help Bird Rescue better care for the hundreds of patients we see every year.

Does this kind of research sound interesting? If you or someone you know might like to participate in a similar project, check out the HCBF Internship Program. It’s a rewarding and unique way to boost your resume or earn college credit while learning about aquatic birds and the scientific research process. Email Jo at internships@bird-rescue.org with any questions!