Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for September 2017

September 27, 2017

Volunteer Spotlight: Susan “Mac” McCarthy

Editor’s note: The work we do at Bird Rescue wouldn’t be possible without our amazing team of staff and volunteers! Read below to meet one of our stellar team members.

Susan McCarthy – Volunteer Since 1971

A writer and a volunteer, Susan (or Mac as we’ll call her) has been on the front lines with Bird Rescue since 1971, getting her start at the Standard Oil spill incident that prompted the very formation of our organization! From oil spills to her work as a writer, Mac’s commitment to animal welfare has been an inspiration to us over the years.

A long-time Bay Area resident, Mac has always had a soft spot for avian wildlife. Growing up in a home that valued the welfare of all animals (including a mother who used to drive her to our center so she could volunteer!) it’s no wonder that Mac has dedicated her life to studying and writing about animal behavior.

As a professional writer, Mac’s work can be seen in her non-fiction books When Elephants Weep (which she co-authored with Jeff Masson) and Becoming a Tiger. In addition to her work in animal behavior, Mac also runs a blog with her colleague Marjorie Ingall, Sorry Watch, which analyzes apologies, both public and private.

We are so grateful that Mac has chosen to spend her time helping our efforts over the years, and are delighted to get to spend time with such an interesting and dedicated woman!

Read Mac’s account of bird rescue at the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill: http://www.outsidelands.org/1971_oil_spill.php

September 17, 2017

Patient of the Week: White-tailed Kite

Rare patient: A White-tailed Kite in care at our SF Bay-Delta Center.

Because of our specialization with water birds, it’s not often that we get to work with or talk about non-aquatic birds, such as this gorgeous, juvenile White-tailed Kite. You may remember three oiled Prairie Falcon chicks that we featured last summer. While we specialize in aquatic bird species, we work with any species that is in need to the best of our abilities.

This kite came to our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center in need of food, water, and warmth after being found crouching near a chicken coop at a private residence in Vallejo, California. The home owner brought the bird to our clinic and we quickly worked to stabilize it, providing the needed warmth and fluids and force-feeding it since it was not ready to feed on its own. We cared for the bird for a couple of days until it was stabilized, and then transferred it to our colleagues at Lindsay Wildlife Museum where it could receive specialized long-term care from their raptor specialists.

White-tailed Kites are medium-sized raptors that can be found in open grasslands and savannas. A good way to spot them in the wild is their characteristic hunting style of hovering over the ground in search of small mammals! They have a bright white tail, grey back and wings, and a white face. Click the photo at top to see footage of a kite hunting and feasting.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, it is unknown whether these soaring beauties are nomadic, migratory, or both. They can be found roosting communally in the off-season.

Though White-tailed Kites are not currently threatened, all raptor species face the challenge of contamination from our environment. Sitting at the top of the food chain, raptors are heavily affected by the toxins that get into their diets. When their prey (small mammals, birds, etc.) are exposed to toxins, these toxins can get more concentrated in the bird of prey when they ingest the animal.

While we love our water birds at Bird Rescue, we’re always happy to celebrate all birds, and this White-tailed Kite is a true beauty. For more information on White-tailed Kites, go here.

Photos by Senior Rehabilitation Technician Jennifer Linander

September 11, 2017

Patient of the Week: Virginia Rail

You may have heard of a dance called the Virginia Reel, but have you ever hard of a bird called a Virginia Rail?

Rails are a diverse family of mostly aquatic birds, not unlike swamp chickens. Most members of this group of birds are very adept at hiding and prefer to inhabit dense vegetation. They are more often heard than seen. Many of this family have distinct calls that are surprisingly loud in relation to their small bodies.

We are currently treating Virginia Rail patients at both our Northern and Southern California wildlife centers. Virginia Rails are very small, with a distinctive orange beak. They are very delicate and can fall victim to house cats, car collisions, and many other human-caused hazards. Fortunately, we successfully released one just last week from our Los Angeles wildlife center.

To hear the voice of the Virgina Rail, click the photo to the right. You can also learn more about Virginia Rails at Cornell Lab of Ornithology: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Virginia_Rail/id

Photos by volunteer Katrina Plummer

 

September 8, 2017

The Release Files: Brown Pelican Recovers From Horrendous Pouch Injury

Brown Pelican out in the aviary after healing from massive pouch and bill trauma. Photo by Katrina Plummer

Remember this Brown Pelican with the monstrous pouch injury we posted earlier this summer? We have good news: The bird recovered and was released after major surgery and weeks of specialized care.

The original injury to this young Brown Pelican mid-July, 2017.

On July 16 2017, a kind-hearted person in Huntington Beach, CA rescued a young Brown Pelican with a horrendous wound. The poor bird’s pouch was completely ripped open, rendering him unable to eat. They brought the starving bird to Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach where he was treated for a few days before being transferred to our Los Angeles Wildlife Center in San Pedro, CA.

We found that the entire left side of the bird’s pouch was shredded and the loose dangling flaps of tissue were bruised and swollen from the rude and painful interruption to their blood supply. The bird also was found to have two separate problems with its bill—the upper bill was partially fractured longitudinally half way along its length while the left mandible was completely fractured back by the jaw joint. Our staff splinted the fractures and stapled the tissue in place temporarily so the bird could eat while getting stronger before what would be a very long surgery.

A few days later, our vet decided the splint was sufficient for the upper bill break but the mandible fracture needed to be pinned. Pelicans have unusual bone texture where the bones have huge interior air spaces and extremely thin but strong outer walls. The outer bone wall is so thin that the threaded orthopedic screws usually used to pin bird bones don’t work. So our vet used something rather akin to an abstract work of art called a “spider fixator” to provide stability. Next, she tackled the long process of suturing the pouch back together. Pelican pouch has very fine stripes that run parallel to the jaw that can tell us how ripped pieces are supposed to fit together. Once all the stripes of the shreds were lined up, it became clear that there were really three long straight parallel cuts with the tissue between the cuts ripped free. This suggests the injury may have been caused by a boat propeller.

After the feisty bird had all of his sutures and pins removed, the pelican spent a few weeks in our large flight aviary getting some exercise before we set him free! He is now sporting big blue band “N75,” so keep your eyes out for him flying the coast.

Every Pelican matters and we so appreciate the public’s support of our efforts.

View inside Brown Pelican’s pouch after removal of pouch repair sutures, with major parts labeled! Check out the new blood vessels he grew to supply the ripped area.

Out in the aviary Aug 24, 2017, healing like a champ.

 

September 2, 2017

Patient of the Week: American White Pelican


Pelicans and stray fishing tackle sure don’t mix. This American White Pelican came into our care with nasty fishing line entanglement injuries. The bird was transferred to us from our friends at WildCare in July with a huge abscess on one wing (plus maggots, ewww, now thankfully gone) and some serious damage to a leg that we are treating.

We are happy to report that after several surgeries for wound treatment and a toe amputation the bird is healing like a champ. Between extra helpings of fish and mandatory hydrotherapy for his leg, the White Peli is flying from perch to perch in the 100-foot aviary at our San Francisco Bay-Delta Center in Fairfield. We have hopes he will be released back to the wild soon!

White Pelicans have 9-foot wingspans and are some of the largest birds in North America. They are larger than Brown Pelicans and feed differently than their cousins, preferring not to dive into water. Instead, they forage cooperatively in inland bodies of water by herding fish toward shallower water together, then scooping them up with their huge bills. Learn more at Audubon: http://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/american-white-pelican

Photos by staffers Cheryl Reynolds and Rebecca Duerr