Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for September 2020

September 28, 2020

Brown Pelican’s Enormous Pouch Laceration Repaired

Veterinarians Dr. Rebecca Duerr and Dr. Avery Berkowitz operate on Brown Pelican with slashed pouch. Photo: International Bird Rescue

Remember Pink the Pelican back several years ago and its horrible pouch laceration? Another Brown Pelican patient has suffered an even worse sliced pouch.

On August 30, 2020, a mature adult female Brown Pelican was found near the Ventura harbor in Southern California with an enormous pouch laceration – including both sides of her pouch all the way back onto her neck on the left side. The pelican’s back of her mouth was completely ripped open and the bird was doomed to die of starvation. Initially it was feared that her pouch had been completely cut off; luckily that was not the case! 

Figuring out what part goes where before temporary repairs of the Brown Pelican’s slashed pouch. Photo: Courtesy of Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network

Thanks to the kind efforts of rescuers,  the bird was brought to Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network’s wildlife center for emergency care, where she was stabilized with IV fluids and pain medications, and her pouch was temporarily tacked in place by their veterinarian, Dr. Avery Berkowitz. 

Temporary repairs allow gravity to help with blood drainage from the severed tissue and also gives the bird a chance to eat. Although very hungry, she had trouble positioning fish in her mouth and needed help swallowing. Arrangements were made to transfer the bird to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center in San Pedro, CA for surgery.

Photo Brown Pelican pouch surgery at International Bird Rescue
View looking into the sutured pelican’s mouth. The massive injury also required Dr. Duerr to rebuild the left side back of the bird’s mouth. Photo: International Bird Rescue

Caring for California’s wildlife is a team effort. Bird Rescue’s staff veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, DVM, MPVM, PhD invited Dr. Avery Berkowitz, Director of Animal Care and Wildlife Veterinarian at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, to come help with the surgery, and thus an inter-organizational surgery day was arranged for September 4th. The veterinarians found small areas of pouch that were devitalized and required removal, but the severed pouch was largely healthy and able to be repaired without substantial loss of the pouch. Normally, Dr. Duerr likes to keep pelican anesthesias to under three hours for various reasons. In this case, the much-worse left side of the pouch was finished being sutured at the two hour mark while the bird was still doing very well under anesthesia, so the two vets opted to go for it and do the right side as well. All-in-all, the massive repair job clocked in at right around four hours total.

We are happy to report this beautiful bird has been doing very well healing, and her sutures were removed 12 days after the surgery. The sutured wound has healed very well, and is getting more healing before returning to the wild to plunge dive in the ocean for dinner. 

This bird is the 4th case of this type of extreme pouch injury our Los Angeles center has received in the past two years: two cases were from Ventura and two from Marina del Rey. Although we have received pelicans with large pouch lacerations for decades, these four cases have been different because the lacerations have continued farther back on the neck as a linear cut, which completely wrecks the back of the bird’s mouth – making the skin of the neck pull away too. Three of these four birds were able to be repaired and released, but the 4th bird unfortunately died of a fungal infection. 

The nature of the wounds makes us fear that someone with a sharp weapon is deliberately hurting these birds. Pouch injuries caused by fishing gear or other misadventures in a species that lives near human activities are both unfortunate and understandable; deliberate harming of our precious wildlife is neither.

Injuring Brown Pelicans is illegal. If you see people hurting pelicans or other wild animals, please report to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s CALTIP hotline at 1-888-334-CalTIP (888-334-2258). You can view the state’s anti-poaching website at https://wildlife.ca.gov/Enforcement/CalTIP where there are instructions for anonymous reporting by text as well. 

Following surgery, the Brown Pelican recuperates in the large flight aviary at the Los Angeles Wildlife Center. Photo: Angie Trumbo – International Bird Rescue
September 23, 2020

Heroic Efforts Couldn’t Save Wayward Nazca Booby

This injured and weak Nazca Booby landed in Long Beach, CA – far from its usual range. Photo by Angie Trumbo – International Bird Rescue

An unusual tropical patient came into care in September at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center after being found stranded at the Port of Long Beach. The injured seabird, called a Nazca Booby, was far out of its normal range — some 3,000 miles from its home in the Galapagos Islands — and even more unusual it had a metal leg band that indicated that it had previously been in human hands. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts the bird has died.

On admission, the Nazca Booby was emaciated and quite weak. X-rays showed it had a poorly-healed old wing fracture of the humerus – very close to the shoulder.

We had hoped our staff veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, DVM MPVM PhD, might be able to pin the damaged wing area, but the bone was already set in the wrong position. While we were unsure whether the bird was going to be able to fly, our team provided expert care and the booby rallied for more than a week. Into the second week, she took a turn for the worse and died suddenly, despite our best efforts.

Our veterinarian conducted a necropsy to see if we could learn more from this bird. The only significant finding beyond the injuries already seen was kidney problems. It seems that this was a fairly young bird who flew way off track then showed up starving, perhaps due to its wing injury. Her remains will be added to the avian collection at Los Angeles Natural History Museum to propel understanding of the species.

The leg band that she arrived with was of particular interest. We learned that this individual Nazca Booby was part of a long term study of the species that biologists from Wake Forest University Biology Department’s Avian Ecology Group have been conducting in the Galapagos Islands since 1984. According to the group’s leader, Professor of Biology David J. Anderson, PhD, the three-year-old female was banded as a nestling in the 2017-18 breeding season.

Adult Nazca Boobies, five years and older, usually reside in a breeding colony at Punta Cevallos on Isla Espanola, said Anderson. The younger birds – from eight months to five years – wander elsewhere and will generally be seen along the coasts of Nicaraugua, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico.

“Reports like yours are valuable for us to know where they spend these years,” said Anderson. “Long Beach [California, USA] is the farthest [sighting] from the colony that has ever been reported!” 

Banded birds, whether in hand or sighted in the field, are a primary mechanism for science to learn about bird migration and dispersal patterns. Bird Rescue bands nearly all of its patients released back to the wild with a metal federal band. In addition, all Brown Pelican patients released back to the wild since 2009 have a unique field readable blue band attached to its opposite leg.

The Nazca Booby (Sula granti) is the largest of the three boobies found in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. They are easily identified by their bright white plumage, black-tipped feathers, and orange beak.

Bird Rescue is honored to have had the chance to help this special booby. We believe Every Bird Matters whether or not they get released. In this instance this bird contributed to science and our further understanding of this species.

September 19, 2020

International Bird Rescue Welcomes Cindy Margulis as Director of Philanthropy

Our new Director of Philanthropy Cindy Margulis has been a longtime friend, ally, and supporter of Bird Rescue. She first encountered Bird Rescue in emergency response mode during the 2007 Cosco Busan Oil Spill in San Francisco Bay. She credits the calm, focus and competence of the team in that high-pressure situation as making an indelible impression on her. Cindy says she resolved, then and there, to do whatever she could to help this team that saves birds’ lives.

In her own words: “My fascination with birds deepened when, as a docent at the Oakland Zoo, I developed a close relationship with a rescued parrot while producing live animal shows for zoo visitors every Sunday. That Amazon Parrot opened my mind to the world of social birds. Grabbing my camera and heading out to local Bay shorelines, I focused on learning all about the swirling mixed flocks of shorebirds and the fabulous array of waterbirds, whose beauty when foraging, preening, roosting, or flying mesmerized me. I fell in love.”

Cindy has lived in the SF Bay region for more than 20 years and is known for her passion for inspiring people to care for wildlife–especially the amazing species of birds that grace our watersheds. In her spare time, Cindy has advocated for and monitored local birds. She served as a docent and Trustee of the Oakland Zoo, and as a docent for the East Bay Regional Park District. For years, she assisted USFWS in monitoring a colony of endangered California Least Terns. And she monitored a winter roosting population of Snowy Plovers and a breeding colony of Great and Snowy Egrets for SF Bay Bird Observatory.

Before joining Bird Rescue’s staff, Cindy served for five years as Executive Director for Golden Gate Audubon. While there, she arranged a collaboration with International Bird Rescue and the Oakland Zoo that saved the lives of hundreds of vulnerable herons and egrets stranded on downtown streets in Oakland, CA, over several seasons. Cindy also envisioned and launched the popular Osprey public outreach initiative and yearlong centennial festivities that inspired thousands of people to appreciate and protect birds. Just last summer, Oakland Magazine ran a feature article about her: http://www.oaklandmagazine.com/September-2019/Cindy-Margulis-Is-an-Avian-Advocate/

We are pleased to welcome Cindy aboard as Director of Philanthropy. She has devoted most of her professional career to creating strong and valuable relationships, including helping to establish and manage win-win relationships with alliance partners. Now, as a member of Bird Rescue’s leadership team, Cindy will strengthen the network of essential donor and alliance relationships that empower Bird Rescue’s life-saving work.