Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Bird Videos

August 27, 2013

International Bird Rescue and “The Big Picture”

Check out the latest episode of Dawn Saves Wildlife’s “The Big Picture” documentary series featuring International Bird Rescue’s wildlife team!

For more episodes from this project, visit dawnsaveswildlife.com.

June 21, 2013

A Ruddy Duck release at the Ballona Wetlands


The Ruddy Duck you see in the background of the photo above was brought to California Wildlife Center in Malibu late last month with a laceration on the right ventral wing.


An aerial view of the Ballona Wetlands via greeningthegray.org

A few days after its wound was cleaned and sutured, the bird was transferred to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center to receive continued medical treatment and antibiotics for the injury, which had completely healed by June 19. The duck also went through the waterproofing process while in care — crucial for any bird that inhabits marshes, as Ruddy Ducks do.

Here, the duck is released at Ballona Wetlands, one of the few remaining wetlands in the Los Angeles basin and a key stopover point for migratory birds. Christopher Taylor, one of our past Photographers in Focus honorees, has photographed an array of species that call Ballona Wetlands home (or at least a rest stop en route elsewhere in the world).

Further reading:

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) profile at AllAboutBirds.org

Friends of Ballona Wetlands

Female Ruddy Duck, photo via Wikimedia Commons

May 21, 2013

New arrival: Common Merganser chick

COME1-Michelle Bellizzi
Images and video by Michelle Bellizzi

Among the many baby birds now in care at our San Francisco Bay center is this Common Merganser chick. Earlier this month, we featured an adult merganser — a Red-breasted Merganser, to be exact — on this blog, one brought to us via an Arizona rehabilitation center (read this recent story and check out a great release photo here).

As for the chick, center manager Michelle Bellizzi reports that this bird was brought to us via The Bird Rescue Center of Santa Rosa and weighed just 30 grams upon intake — about as much as a pencil.

In the video below, it’s feeding time. This chick has since been transferred to a small pool with some duckling pals.

April 25, 2013

Green Heron feeding session

Thanks to Cheryl Reynolds and Isabel Luevano for filming feeding time at our San Francisco Bay center!


April 22, 2013

Pelican release at Terranea Resort, Earth Day weekend 2013

During this past winter, a number of California Brown Pelicans were reported to have traveled well north of their usual habitat – British Columbia, to be exact.

Several of these birds settled in Victoria’s inner harbour, and three were found to have parasites, frostbite, and in the case of one pelican, wounds that may have been from fishing hook injuries.

After weeks of planning and the securing of appropriate permits, the birds were flown south via commercial jet cargo to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife care center, which is equipped with the large aviaries necessary to successfully treat aquatic birds of this size. These pelicans were released at Terranea Resort in nearby Rancho Palos Verdes on April 20, 2013.

Photos and video by Bill Steinkamp. Music by Wired Ant. View the full-size video here.


Find out how you can get involved with pelicans through our Pelican Partner program.

April 17, 2013

The Release Files: Great Egret

This Great Egret (Ardea alba) was treated for multiple wing fracture and a leg wound in spring 2013. Here, Los Angeles center manager Julie Skoglund releases the bird. Video by Dr. Rebecca Duerr.

GREG release

March 19, 2013

Once oiled, these Common Murres return to their ocean home

As you may have read recently on this blog, our Los Angeles center has had a busy season with oiled Common Murres — medium-sized seabirds that nest on rocky cliffs. Natural oil seepage off the Santa Barbara coast is to blame; because these oiled birds are affected by natural causes rather than a human-caused oil spill, the high cost of rehabilitating these animals falls largely on IBR and other area wildlife groups.

We’re pleased to report that we’ve rehabilitated many of these birds and have begun releasing them back to the wild.

Last week, volunteer photographer/videographer Bill Steinkamp filmed evaluations and releases of three such Common Murres. Here, staff rehab technician Kylie Clatterbuck and intern Andrea Murrieta check waterproofing and band a murre ready for release.


March 15, 2013

Local love, courtesy RPV TV in Rancho Palos Verdes

RPV TV in Rancho Palos Verdes recently visited International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center in nearby San Pedro for a great story on our day-to-day rehabilitation work. Thanks to station manager Mark Doddy and his team for a comprehensive segment!

January 29, 2013

A Laysan Albatross returns to sea

This Laysan Albatross was recently evaluated and released by International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife care center team. Photos by Paul Berry.

“Big birds in big oceans, albatrosses lead big, sprawling lives across space and time, traveling to the limits of seemingly limitless seas,” Pulitzer Prize-winning Guadalupemapauthor Carl Safina wrote in the 2002 classic Eye of the Albatross. “They accomplish these distances by wielding the impressive — wondrous, really — body architecture of creatures built to glide indefinitely.”

Seeing these magnificent animals up close, it’s not difficult to see where Safina got the inspiration for this prose.

Though Laysan Albatrosses breed primarily in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a breeding colony exists on Mexico’s Guadalupe Island, located off the coast of Baja California and more than 200 miles due south of Los Angeles (see map right). They are occasionally seen at our Los Angeles center, sometimes having been found as “stowaways” on cargo ships.

On Saturday, an animal control officer brought to us a Laysan Albatross wrapped in a towel; the bird had been taken to the San Pedro Animal Shelter by an unidentified member of the public.

The albatross in a pelagic pool at International Bird Rescue prior to release.


This albatross was given a full evaluation by staff. Deemed healthy, it was placed in an outdoor pelagic pool overnight, and the following day, the albatross was banded and loaded into a crate for release.




In the video below, International Bird Rescue rehabilitation technician Kelly Berry releases the albatross past the breakwaters with the help of the lifeguards at Cabrillo Beach.

“Not only is it an absolutely beautiful bird, but it was a beautiful sight to watch it fly off toward the open ocean,” Berry notes. “Overall, it was a success.”


Nearly a year ago to the day, our L.A. center released an albatross that had been a stowaway on a ship. Read more on this previous patient here.

January 28, 2013

Up for a wash: At our Los Angeles center, a busy day with oiled seabirds

An oiled Common Murre up for a wash. Photos and video by Bill Steinkamp, all rights reserved.

On a recent afternoon, a team of staff and volunteers at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife care center had their hands full with oiled Common Murres and Western Grebes in need of a wash. Over the past few years, the center has seen an increase in the number of oiled seabirds such as Common Murres affected in part by natural seepage off the coast.

When a bird becomes oiled, its feathers can mat and separate, exposing the animal’s sensitive skin to temperature extremes. After collection, each oiled bird is stabilized, which includes nutrition, hydration, and medical treatment before it is considered for a wash, as unstable birds may die from the resulting stress of the procedure. Once stable, an oiled bird goes through a series of tub washes with a low concentration of DAWN dishwashing liquid in clean water.

After washing, the bird is taken to a separate rinsing area where a special nozzle is used to completely rinse the solution, as any detergent or solution left on its feathers can impair waterproofing. The bird is then placed in a protective, net-bottomed pen equipped with commercial pet grooming dryers, where it will begin to preen its feathers back into place. A tight overlapping pattern of the feathers creates a natural waterproof seal, which enables the bird to maintain its body temperature and remain buoyant in the water.

Post-wash, rehabilitation staff closely monitor a bird’s waterproofing as it recovers in warm and then cold water pools.

Bill Steinkamp, one of our volunteer photographers, took these wonderful photographs of the hard work required to treat these animals.

COMU1-Bill Steinkamp

COMU2-Bill Steinkamp


COMU8-Bill Steinkamp

WEGR3-Bill Steinkamp


COMU7-Bill Steinkamp

COMU4-Bill Steinkamp

COMU5-Bill Steinkamp

November 29, 2012

21 Seconds that Will Make You Smile

Common Murre release, video by Jeff Robinson, who volunteers at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Area center.

November 15, 2012

Sometimes It Takes a Village: Relying on the Kindness of Strangers

A Pacific Loon treated at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Area center. Photo by Jeff Robinson.

It may be hard to believe, but we have actually had injured birds come to us, like a gull that once landed on the roof of our Los Angeles center impaled by a gigantic, three-pronged fishing lure. But the majority of the time, injured and sick birds rely on caring humans to get from where they land or beach themselves to our bird hospitals. There can be stops at other centers along the way for assessment and triage, but because most wildlife care centers in California don’t have the large pools and aviaries needed to properly rehabilitate many aquatic species, they need to get to International Bird Rescue. It is not uncommon for patients to come from hundreds of miles away to get the specialized care our centers provide.

Since they can’t fly or drive themselves, these birds need the equivalent of a bird limo service. We call this volunteer program Wings on Wheels — caring humans willing to drive long distances with a bird companion. If only they counted for the carpool lane!

When a Pacific Loon flew into a lighthouse during a storm in a remote area of Mendocino County (130 miles north of San Francisco), it could have been the end of the line for the beautiful bird. But this loon had luck on her side and a strong will to live. The Point Arena Lighthouse is a historical landmark with an animal-loving manager, Pamela Fitzgerald, who saw the grounded black bird with the beady eyes and razor-sharp bill and was not deterred. She thought the bird was injured because it couldn’t move. One wing appeared to have a slight droop.

Many people don’t know that some water birds can’t walk on land. Physiologically, they’ve evolved to dive, so their legs are far back on their bodies. When they become grounded, it’s commonly assumed that they’re injured, but uninjured grounded birds just need to be put back into water. In this case, it would be impossible to know if this loon was injured without examination by a professional.

The loon’s journey from Point Arena to our San Francisco Bay Area center. Photo by Pamela Fitzgerald.

Pam did the absolute right thing — she contacted IBR for instructions, and with the help of gloves and a blanket, the loon was gently put into a box. Since it was late in the day, nothing could be done except to let the loon rest for the night and find a bird limo driver to get her from the lighthouse to our San Francisco Bay Area center in Fairfield — a long and winding 140-mile drive on mostly back roads.

To everyone’s relief, a quick look in the box the next morning found the loon alive. Loons, like many wild animals, can actually die from the stress of capture and confinement, so keeping them in a quiet dark box is the best one can do. Getting the loon to our Bay Area center was another matter. Becky Curtis, who works at the lighthouse, generously offered to make the journey across four counties. And because of the stress factor, her feathered friend would need quiet — no rock music on the drive.

Arriving at IBR late in the evening, the loon was quickly examined and hydrated by intern Sierra Lammers. Since the loon’s waterproofing had been compromised, which can happen if the bird’s feces have stuck to its feathers while in the box, she was put on a comfy donut in a net-bottomed cage to rest the night.

Banding the loon for release. Photo by Jeff Robinson.

The next morning, an exam by rehab manager Michelle Bellizzi and veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr revealed no broken bones, just the equivalent of a bump and a bruise from crashing into the lighthouse. More fluids and nutrition via a tube, time in a warm-water pool for some feather cleaning and rearranging, and then a warm dryer had this loon at maximum feistiness. Loons are difficult to rehab because they truly hate confinement, so staff wanted as short a stay as possible. Blood work showed that this loon was ready for her silver band, hospital discharge papers and another journey — this time the last — to her ocean home.

A shout-out was made for a volunteer, and within moments, Jeff Robinson e-mailed back his eagerness to do a loon release. The loon went back in a box for another long, quiet car ride, this time to Fort Baker near the Golden Gate Bridge. After logging a couple hundred miles and being helped by many caring humans, this feisty girl was released under the bridge where she could easily swim to her natural home — the Pacific Ocean. May you find lots of fish and stay away from lighthouses. —Karen Benzel

This loon has been adopted as part of International Bird Rescue’s Adopt-a-Bird Program. If you would like to adopt a loon or another species we care for, please visit our adoptions page for more information. Adoptions make unique and meaningful gifts and memorials for loved ones and family.

To sign up for IBR’s Northern California Wings on Wheels program, please e-mail us and we’ll get you on our list.

Loon release video by Jeff Robinson. Click here for more of Robinson’s bird videos.

October 5, 2012

5 Minutes with “Winged Planet” Director John Downer

Barnacle Geese over Tantallon Castle, Scotland. Photo courtesy Discovery Channel.


With campaign season cacophony in full gear on the airwaves, we’re looking forward to a bit of wildlife respite this weekend with the Saturday premiere of Winged Planet, an innovative documentary on the lives of birds around the world.

A co-production of the BBC and Discovery Channel, the film is directed by John Downer, whose previous works include Elephants: Spy in the Herd and Tiger: Spy in the Jungle.

In Winged Planet, the espionage theme continues. Downer fitted several different species with lightweight cameras for — dare we indulge the pun — a bird’s eye view of the world. And an exhilarating one at that.

Downer took a few minutes with International Bird Rescue’s Every Bird Matters blog to chat about his latest (and perhaps greatest) cinematic endeavor, one four years in the making.

We’ve read that you started your documentary career filming snakes. What made you move on to birds?

John Downer with macaws. Photo courtesy John Downer Productions.

Downer: Snakes were just one of the subjects. I liked the idea of celebrating something that people generally didn’t like and trying to get people to understand and celebrate them by getting into their world. The next film I made was on bird flight. The challenge there was to find a way of filming them that captured the magic and beauty of their flight, although this film was made 25 years ago. I always had this in mind when I returned to some of the techniques in Winged Planet. 

What type of camera made these aerial shots possible?

The “birdcams” were stripped down versions of small HD cameras. They had to be greatly modified to lose over three-quarters of their weight and had new wide-angle lenses attached.

Were the birds commandeering these cameras imprinted?

For birdcam shots, it was a mixture of imprinted birds, rehabbed raptors that had developed a strong relationship with their keeper, or at times, someone’s pet! The key was a good relationship so they would always come back, and a good temperament.

Camera onboard shot of Rüppell’s Vulture flying over Kenya, East Africa. Photo courtesy Discovery Channel.

Were you surprised by any avian behavior captured on film?

I was continually surprised by what we found. But it was the relationships with other animals that became a recurring theme. For example, although we had filmed a sardine run before, we had never shot it from the gannet’s point of view (see photo below). And it soon became clear that the dolphins and the whales were both watching the gannets, and the gannets were watching them. They were pooling their knowledge to find food. The gannets were the eyes in the sky.

Gannets diving with Bass Rock in background, Scotland. Photo courtesy Discovery Channel.

What was your favorite species to film?

I like the Common Cranes. The imprinted flocks were a joy to work with, very reliable, allowing us to fly with them over the Camargue or above the Loire Valley in France. Their courtship dance was also a delight. So entertaining.

Common Cranes, video courtesy Discovery Channel.

In the four years it took to make this film, did you get a sense of the fragility of habitat many of these birds call home?

I certainly did get that sense, but more importantly, it’s evident as you follow them across continents that we’re talking about a huge network of habitats. And the birds don’t just rely on them — they rely on the life that lives there too. When you enter the bird’s world, you discover the reality of the interconnectedness of all life.

Winged Planet premieres on Discovery Channel at 8PM ET/PT on Saturday, October 6. Learn more about the film at Discovery’s website.

Brown Pelicans and Gulls underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo courtesy Discovery Channel.


September 16, 2012

The Spirit of Wildlife Conservation is Universal

Hat tip to Yéssica Lopes, a journalist with Diário Popular, for sending us this wrap-up from the recent Latin-American Conference on Marine Wildlife Rehabilitation. Lopes and co-producer Roberto Zambonato interviewed leaders in the field, including Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue’s executive director emeritus.

September 12, 2012

View from the Murre Blind on Southeast Farallon Island

The din of Common Murres, accompanied by Gregory Alan Isakov’s “Stable Song.”


Video by Mike Johns.