Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Blue-Banded Pelicans

April 22, 2020

Webinar April 30: Blue Banded Pelican Project

Join us for an informative webinar on the Blue Banded Pelican Project by Dr. Rebecca Duerr, International Bird Rescue’s staff veterinarian. The online event will be held on Thursday, April 30, 2020 at 5:30 PM (PST). Please register here

In an effort to increase the number of reports of live sightings, Bird Rescue initiated the Blue-Banded Pelican Project in 2009. In addition to the metal federal band, each Brown Pelican receives a large, blue plastic leg band bearing easily readable white numbers. Since starting this program, thansks to citizen scientists, the rate of live Brown Pelican sighting reports has greatly increased.  The blue band IDs that we use feature a single letter followed by two numbers.

Read more

October 26, 2018

Success Story: Rehabilitated Pelican E17’s Eight Year Journey!

This story spans eight years and crosses international borders – all wrapped up in the journey of International Bird Rescue’s most famous former patient and parent, a California Brown Pelican banded E17 after his rehabilitation in 2010 at our Los Angeles center.

E17 created quite a buzz when he was spotted for the third time last month in Northern California during the semi-annual Brown Pelican count off of the Alameda Reserve Breakwater Island, a collaboration between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Audubon California.

For those of you who may not be familiar with this bird’s story, it began when he was in care with us for 259 days after his flight feathers had been clipped short, bringing likely suspicions of foul play by humans. To get more on his back story see this blog post.

Since his release, E17’s story has become even more compelling! As you can see in the timeline below, it is apparent that he is an international traveler, flying between San Jeronimo Island in Mexico, Northern California and likely many points in between. Most notably, he surprised and delighted the rehabilitation community in 2017 when he was photographed fathering two chicks on San Jeronimo Island!

Though E17’s rehabilitation story illustrates great success, many pelicans and other seabirds face agonizing injuries and death from cruelty at the hands of humans. Please donate today to help us continue to care for the many patients International Bird Rescue receives every year suffering from pointless cruelty, like E17.

March 6, 2018

Pelagic boating tours offer opportunities for sighting blue-banded Brown Pelicans


Bernardo Alps, Santa Monica Bay, Feb. 11, 2018

Editor’s Note: Thank you to our long time employee, Suzie Kosina, for preparing this piece. 

When we release our rehabilitated patients, we often wish them “good luck” on their way back to life in the wild.  While the superstitious might prefer “break a leg”, we know all too well the very real risk these birds face in suffering broken bones, especially in urbanized areas where they may be hit by cars, accidentally fly into glass windows or tumble onto hard pavement from a nest.  Unfortunately, many of our patients arrive to us in critical condition with fractured limbs, severe emaciation or gruesome lacerations from entanglement in fishing gear. Fortunately, we are able to treat many of these issues resulting in the successful release of hundreds of patients every year.  Each band sighting report that we receive is confirmation of the hard work we perform in the clinic to get our patients ready to confront the challenges of the world again.

Through a program with the US Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Lab, our organization bands all released birds with metal leg identification bands and for some species, we also use Blue, Red, and Black plastic leg bands.  In 2009, Brown Pelicans were selected for a special banding program using blue plastic bands with large white lettering on both sides. These bands have drastically increased the number of sightings in the wild that we receive as they are much easier to read than the tiny digits stamped on the metal bands.  As one can imagine, we are elated with every sighting report that we receive as it indicates one of our patients has successfully been migrating, foraging for food, and even breeding in Baja California, Mexico.  

While Brown Pelicans can frequently be seen from land roosting along the shore or soaring above the water, pelagic birding and whale watching tours offer great opportunities for spotting some of our previous patients further out in their natural habitats.

Roosting along rocky outcrops of the coastline or soaring above the water, pelagic birding and whale watching tours offer great opportunities for spotting some of our previous patients further out in their more natural habitats.

Credit: Byron & Joanna Chin

Over the past three years, we have received 12 reports from individuals on boating tours and 46 reports from tour guides.  Recently, on Feb 12, 2017, on a tour guided by Bernardo Alps (of American Cetacean Society – LA Chapter) and organized by the Pasadena Audubon Society, Ayla Qureshi got some fantastic photos of N09 in adult breeding plumage flying over the open ocean alongside an immature gull near Marina del Rey in Southern California.  N09 was treated at our LA Wildlife Center in 2015 when we removed three fishing hooks embedded his legs and wing; interestingly, this bird was found to have had an old but healed ulna fracture that it had recovered from! This sighting report was submitted to us through our online reporting form which can be found here.  All reports are responded to with case history information if requested.

Credit: Ayla Qureshi at Marina del Rey, CA on Feb 11, 2018


There are actually a few other organizations that use brightly colored plastic bands on Brown Pelicans as well.  On a recent tour this past fall on Alvaro’s Adventures, Dorian Anderson, a wildlife photographer, managed to photograph six color banded Brown Pelicans, including one red band from the chick banding program GECI in Baja, Mexico, one green band from the Refugio Spill cleanup managed by UC Davis [LINK] and one white band from another rehab center, The Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Oregon.  You can report red, white and green banded Brown Pelicans directly to the Bird Banding Lab.

Credit: Dorian Anderson at Pillar Point Harbor, CA on Sept. 14, 2017


As spring and summer roll around, Brown Pelicans typically start migrating north after breeding season and can commonly be found off the California, Oregon and Washington coasts in large numbers.  If you happen to catch any photos of a brown pelican roost site, such as this one captured by Byron and Joanna Chin on another of Alvaro’s tours, make sure you take a close look for those colored bands!  Hiding off to the right is H98, a former patient treated in 2011 at our SF Bay Wildlife Center for a large pouch laceration with exposed bone. These types of injuries typically require extensive surgical repair. Unfortunately, these are common injuries most often caused by fishing hooks and can be fatal without treatment.  Can you spot H98?

Credit: Byron & Joanna Chin at Pillar Point Harbor, CA on Sept. 17, 2017


As a general reminder, all wildlife should be viewed with as minimal disturbance as possible.  Many marine birds and mammals can present a serious hazard to humans and it is also in their best interest to be observed from a distance.  Should a bird decide to get up close and personal, as did K57 on a Sea & Sage Audubon Society pelagic birdwatching trip in 2015, do not attempt to touch the bird or feed it anything.  K57 was treated in 2012 as a juvenile for anemia, hypothermia, and emaciation – a common trio of ailments for younger Brown Pelicans on their first pass up north. Sightings like this allow us to know that our former down and out young patient has successfully become a beautiful healthy adult bird!


Credit: Robert McNab (photo license), off Newport Coast, CA on Jan. 10, 2015


A few pointers to keep in mind when looking for blue-banded Brown Pelicans:

  • Always respect the birds, their personal space, and privacy;
  • Observe using binoculars from a distance (never get closer to a bird than 10 yards);
  • Do not flush/disturb groups of roosting birds by moving directly towards them and minimize time stopped near roost locations;
  • Never chase or follow a bird trying to move away from you;
  • Reduce human-caused disturbance (loud noises, garbage, food waste, etc.)
  • Obey all laws and restricted area postings;
  • Take special precaution (extra distance, very quiet voices, etc) or avoid entirely animals performing sensitive behaviors (nesting, breeding, courtship, etc.).

Interested in taking a local whale watching or pelagic bird boating tour?  Check out the following for upcoming tours along the California coast. Also, consider checking your local Audubon chapter for hosted pelagic trips:

Shearwater Journeys (Monterey Bay, Half Moon Bay and Farallon Islands – California)

Alvaro’s Adventures, led by Alvaro Jaramillo, Avian Biologist with SF Bay Bird Observatory (Monterey Bay, Half Moon Bay, Bodega Bay, Farallon Islands – California and International)

San Diego Pelagics (San Diego area – California)

Catalina Explorer (Southern Channel Islands – California)

Sea and Sage Audubon Society (Dana Point – California)

Oceanic Society, whale watching focused (Half Moon Bay, Farallon Islands, SF Bay – California)


Please report injured birds to one of our Wildlife Centers.

March 14, 2017

Intern’s Data Crunching Creates Better Understanding Of Blue-Banded Pelicans

Brown Pelican M43 sports a large, easy-to-read blue band. This bird originally came into care at Bird Rescue with a sea lion bite wound to the chest. Photo: Michael Bolte

Connor Mathews was a junior majoring in Wildlife Conservation and Ecology at the University of Nevada, Reno, when he started his internship, sponsored by the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation (HCBF), at Bird Rescue. He had already volunteered with Bird Rescue, so he was very familiar with the clinic and the birds we care for. Eager to help us with one of our ongoing, large-scale efforts, Connor chose to gather data for our Blue-Banded Pelican project (learn more), the purpose of which is to garner post-release survival and activity information on pelicans we’ve rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Connor combed through old records from over 1,200 Brown Pelicans that had been released over a seven-year period (2009–2015) and collected data on the type, location, and severity of the injuries that had brought them into our care. He also collected other significant information, such as whether the pelican had suffered from fishing hook/line-related injuries or conditions such as anemia and emaciation.

HCBF intern Connor Mathews presenting his research findings to IBR staff and volunteers and San Pedro and Wilmington community members.

The core part of the Blue-Banded Pelican project is that the pelicans we release are outfitted with a large and easy-to-read blue leg band, and the public is asked to report sightings of these banded birds through our website. Given that there were hundreds of reported sightings, Connor had his work cut out for him in trying to match each bird’s patient record with the corresponding blue-banded Brown Pelican sighting and re-sighting information. After days of data analysis, Connor arrived at many important results, but the most interesting one was the sheer number of banded birds that have been encountered and reported. We were able to follow up on many of the pelicans we had cared for, rehabilitated, and released, which allowed us to see how well many of them were doing back in the wild (check out a success story here).

Band Return Conclusions

• Pelicans that are in care for smaller amounts of time tend to survive longer after release

• Contaminated pelicans also tend to survive longer after release than pelicans with other types of major injuries

• Our Brown Pelicans that get released have the potential to travel very far distances

• However, further research needs to be done to see if our pelicans are mating in the wild

Take a look at some of Connor’s statistics:

Over 1,200 Brown Pelicans have been blue-banded, with the highest number in 2012. These numbers largely reflect the number of pelicans received for care.

Nearly one-half of all blue-banded Pelicans we released have been sighted at least once in the wild!

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!

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.


January 12, 2017

New Year Brings Back a Familiar Face

n39_bbp_2016Earlier this month, a Brown Pelican with the blue band “N39” came back into care, after two previous stays with us.

This individual, who was last in care in last July for an abdominal puncture and a toe injury, was released last summer after those wounds healed. He first arrived in care nearly seven years ago at our San Francisco wildlife center after being stranded on January 29, 2010 in Monterey, California. The bird was emaciated, anemic, and had contaminated feathers. He was treated and released with the blue band “A91” in mid-February of that same year. His blue band was damaged and therefore was replaced during his second stay, and he became “N39”.

He has been spotted many times over the years through our blue-banded pelican reporting tool:

• Santa Barbara, 4/1/2010
San Pedro, 2/9/2012
Westport, WA 7/27, 7/31, and 8/13/2013
Marina del Rey, 4/5/2014
Ballona Creek 5/5/2014
Moss Landing, 1/24/2015

Now he is back with a sea lion bite! Although this is a serious injury, he is expected to heal fully as pelicans are among our most resilient patients! Learn more about our Blue-Banded Pelican Program here.

Photo by Bill Steinkamp

May 2, 2016

Meet Bart Selby, Ace Pelican Spotter!


Brown Pelican with its blue band A56 was reported at the Monterey Wharf. Photo by Bart Selby

Our Blue-banded Pelican Program has become important to a lot of pelican enthusiasts who like the idea of connecting with California Brown Pelicans as individuals with personal histories. But to Bart Selby, connecting in this way seems like a calling of the highest order. This self-described Brown Pelican fan has become one of the super-reporters of banded pelicans in our (so far) seven-year old program.

On May 7th, you too can become a pelican spotter as part of the California Audubon Society’s Brown Pelican Count, and we hope you will keep an eye out for blue-banded pelicans as well! Learn how to get involved here:

Our ace spotter Bart hails from San Carlos, CA, and is passionate about pelicans. Using his kayak and a keen eye, he has reported more than 175 sightings of 95 different individual blue-banded pelicans–and that’s not counting his sightings of green-banded birds released after the Refugio oil spill or white-banded birds rehabilitated at Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Astoria, OR. Most of his sightings have been photodocumented with beautiful images of our former patients resting, preening, and generally behaving like normal wild pelicans.

We talked to Bart about his passion and some of the spotting strategies he uses in the field.

Q. How did you hear about and begin spotting blue-banded pelicans?

A. I’m a huge Brown Pelican fan. I’ve been photographing them for years. I’m a volunteer Team Ocean kayak-based naturalist on Monterey’s Elkhorn Slough summer weekends, and I’m on the Citizen’s Advisory Board of NOAA’s Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. I spotted my first blue-banded pelican (“A56”) in Monterey in 2011, and my second (“P62”) at Pillar Point in 2014.

During the summer of 2015, I began training for a solo kayak crossing to the Farallons, paddling three times a week before work, often in harbors. At Half Moon Bay’s Pillar Point, I happened to photograph Brown Pelican C84, and was hooked on banded birds when I read his amazing history (see below). Over the summer, I refined my spotting technique and racked up a few identifications.

C84’s story:

Oft spotted C84: Blue-banded Pelican. Photo by Bart Selby

The winter of 2010 saw a mass stranding event of adult pelicans. At the time, Southern California’s breakwaters and jetties (as well as highways and backyards!) were covered with dead and dying, starving, cold, and contaminated mature adult pelicans. This mass mortality event was occurring only a few months after the species was removed from the Endangered Species List in November 2009.

This bird was admitted on January 9, 2010, after landing in the yard at our LA wildlife center, and was listed in our database with the very rare distinction of being “self-admitted.” This very smart bird was thin and weak, and had contaminated plumage. We treated and released him, clean and well fed, on January 29, 2010.

11/12/2012 in Moss Landing, CA
7/30/2015, 8/1/2015, 8/16/2015, 8/24/2015, 9/13/2015, 9/15/2015, and 9/17/2015 at Pillar Point Harbor, CA

Q. What things have you learned in your quest? Tips, suggestions?

A. The first rule of respectful interaction with animals is to not disturb any wildlife. Disturbance is defined as any change in behavior. In an ID shot, it is ideal if the bird is grooming, stretching, sleeping, or even looking at the camera. If it is taking off or hopping away, it was most likely disturbed. That’s bad karma.

I tell visitors to only go out with or get instruction from someone who knows how to approach wildlife without disturbing it. For one thing, it’s a numbers game. You have to see a lot of birds to find tagged ones, and you will not see a lot if you disturb any, as they all talk to each other. And roosting birds need recovery time to groom and rest.

The best way to get close to water or shore birds is to go on a boat tour with responsible guides in an area where the wildlife is acclimated. I tell people who ask that the best place to photograph sea otters is walking around the pier at Monterey’s marina. If you paddle in Drake’s Estero in Point Reyes, harbor seals spook at 500 yards. At Cannery Row in June, the adolescents often jump on boats. Pelicans in harbors are generally not afraid of humans, if the humans are behaving as the birds expect.

Notice the defect in the middle right side of T80's upper bill--IBR staff were not sure if this would be a problem for a plunge-diving bird. Thanks to this photo we were relieved to see the bill looking great several years later!

Notice the defect in the middle right side of T80’s upper bill–IBR staff were not sure if this would be a problem for a plunge-diving bird. Thanks to this photo we were relieved to see the bill looking great several years later!

Pelicans typically roost at night, so if prey is in the area, dawn will find them at their local safe spots.

Q. What surprises you about the pelicans you see?

A. Pelicans are complex, tolerant, and interesting birds. The more I see of them, the more impressed I am. The Blue-banded Pelican Program opens amazing windows to learning ever more about the birds by allowing us to see them as individuals, and by demonstrating that Bird Rescue’s great intervention works. I’m seeing the same birds over months. I see individual birds’ plumage change with the seasons and figure out who hangs with whom, where and when.

When I get a bird’s history, it’s often possible to spot the recovery from an injury in the image, like the foot injury of C74 or the healing beak of T80. It’s very cool to find out I’m the first to see a bird that was released five years earlier. And it’s amazing to see the green-banded (“Z”) birds recovering from the Refugio oil spill getting new plumage. I’ve seen 12 of them in total and one of them, Z15, I’ve seen six times.

Reviewing the images with their history has made me a better observer. On my last paddle at Elkhorn, I saw five banded birds, three blue (E08, P09, V89) and two green (Z23, Z36), as well as two injured birds–one badly cut, most likely by a sea lion bite, one with heavily contaminated plumage. And I saw one pelican paddle into the harbor from the bay, for some reason he/she could not fly.

Q. Any gear that you use that helps you better spot banded pelicans?

A. I see most banded birds from a kayak. I have pretty good vision, and I’ve learned to find the tag by looking for color or the brightness of an aluminum band with unaided eyes; then I quickly shoot images with a camera. I try to never stop or point the boat toward the bird. Often I will not see the number until I check the image later. Binoculars are useful in larger boats but not in kayaks, which generally move too much to do efficient scanning. I use (waterproof) Nikon Monarch binoculars and a full-frame Nikon with a fast 400mm zoom. My most useful tools are knowing where to look and how to approach wildlife without disturbance.

Q. Where do you normally look for blue-banded pelicans?

A. Brown Pelicans have huge wingspans and need a lot of time, space, and ground speed to get airborne. They must take off and land facing into the wind. I think they have difficulty getting to flight speed on land unless the winds are within a narrow range, so they stick to a cliff top or someplace on the water; this greatly limits where you will find them roosting, resting, or preening. For pelicans to be present, there must be prey in the area. When pelicans are around, you will find them in the same spots, always on the water and hard for land-based predators to get to. Breakwaters are their ideal roosting spots, jetties a close second. The last two years have been outstanding for sea life in Northern California, with huge numbers of pelicans around, from Monterey to the Gate. I saw more than 20,000 in the Pillar Point harbor on a few days in August and photographed 14 tagged birds.

Brown Pelican C74 was spotted last summer at Pillar Point Harbor. Photo by Bart Selby

Great view of an old injury years later–notice C74 is missing half of his right foot’s outer toe. It was amputated due to a fishing hook injury. Photo by Bart Selby

If pelicans are not feeding, they are travelling to the fish. In California, if they are headed north, you can also see them along Highway 1 or on trails that have high bluffs right along the water. To fly north into our prevailing winds, pelicans “bluff surf.” As the winds strike the coastal cliffs, they are deflected up; birds–mostly gulls and pelicans–will surf that uplift. In it they can fly directly into the wind travelling at 30mph without beating their wings. They position themselves at the top of the cliff, often less than 20 feet away from the edge, then soar up and slide down and forward, repeating the process over and over. If you pull off Highway 1 along those bluffs–anywhere from LA to Oregon–Brown Pelicans will fly right by you. Anyone riding in a car may see pelicans up close, often from the car window.

The Blue-banded Pelican Program began in 2009 as a brainchild of Jay Holcomb, the Director of International Bird Rescue until his passing in 2014. Jay envisioned a program that asked the public, or “citizen scientists,” to track and report these majestic seabirds. Jay’s vision shaped the program, and we are continuing his legacy. The program is now being shepherded by our Veterinarian and Research Director Dr. Rebecca Duerr and our Operations Manager and Master Bander Julie Skoglund. Since September 2009, Bird Rescue has treated and released more than 1,222 blue-banded California Brown Pelicans. Read more about our banding programs

pelicans-2-fly-thumbBecome a Pelican Partner: It’s an unforgettable experience and a unique way to support wild birds in need. In our Pelican Partner program, you and your family will have the chance to tour either our Los Angeles or San Francisco Bay centers, where you’ll meet your seabird as it gets ready for its release.

November 20, 2015

Banded Bird Sighting: P63 Brown Pelican spotted in Oregon

Photo Pelican plunge diving

Spotted plunge diving in Oregon, P63 banded Brown Pelican, was originally released in Sausalito, CA in June 2014. Photo by Dwight Porter

We take a lot of pride in our bird-banding program — especially when we get reports on birds sighted hundreds of miles from their release point.

A case in point is P63, a female hatch-year Brown Pelican. P63 was found stranded in June 2014 in Santa Cruz and treated at our San Francisco Bay Center for emaciation, hypothermia, anemia, and miscellaneous minor injuries.

Once P63 was well, she was blue-banded as part of our bird-banding program and released at Fort Baker in Sausalito on July 3, 2014. She was first sighted on March 7, 2015, in Morro Bay, and then again on October 22 while plunge diving in Netarts Bay, Oregon—about 700 miles from her initial release location. We extend our thanks to Dwight Porter of Portland, one of our citizen scientists, who reported his sighting of P63 on our online reporting site and gave us some great photos.

International Bird Rescue puts specific color markers on the bands placed on certain species of birds (as do many other organizations) to aid in the identification of the birds’ band ID numbers. If you spot a bird with a band and/or a color marker, please report your sighting here: http://www.bird-rescue.org/contact/found-a-bird/reporting-a-banded-bird.aspx


July 16, 2015

The Weekly Bittern

Dear supporters of International Bird Rescue,

Pelican Release in San Pedro, CA.

Pelican Release in San Pedro, CA.

Tuesday marked the end of my first week as Executive Director, and what a week it has been!

For my first few days, I had the privilege of being among the incredibly capable team at our southern facility, the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care Center. Led by Operations Manager Julie Skoglund and Center Manager Kelly Berry, the team worked tirelessly to welcome Ian Somerhalder and our partners from Dawn dish detergent as we joined forces to celebrate our many superb volunteers, without whom none of this work with injured and orphaned birds would be possible. Thank you, IBR Volunteers and Interns, for your dedication! Please stop by and say hi when you get a chance. I’d like to meet each of you.

Two orphaned Pied-Billed Grebes are fed every half-hour and cuddle with a feather duster

Two orphaned Pied-Billed Grebes are fed every half-hour and cuddle with a feather duster.

The culmination of the event was the release of three Brown Pelicans and a Western Gull that had finished their rehabilitation and were ready for their return to the wild. I can say firsthand that this is a deeply moving experience, especially as I was given the honor of opening one of the cages. I released the Brown Pelican at the far right of the photo, who I have nicknamed N-20 for the blue band which will be used to track her progress in the future. We invite you to participate by using our citizen scientist reporting tool to document sightings of any blue banded pelican. This information is vital to our ongoing research. I’ll personally be watching closely for news of N-20, N-18, and X-01!

Over the weekend, I was able to meet the equally amazing team of our northern facility, International Bird Rescue – San Francisco Bay. Led by Center Manager Michelle Bellizzi, the northern center is currently working on a massive number of orphaned baby birds, including Green Heron, Snowy Egrets, Black-crowned Night Heron, Pied-Billed Grebes, Western Gulls, Pelagic Cormorants, Brandt’s Cormorants, Common Mergansers, and Mallards.

At both facilities, I have also had the privilege of watching our very talented Veterinarian and Research Director, Rebecca Duerr DVM MPVM PhD, as she administered pelicans, gulls, egrets, and more.

On Wednesday morning at Fort Baker, we also released a Double-Crested Cormorant and another Brown Pelican, the latter of which had been in our care for a full year after devastating damage to her wing and feathers. I’ll share more info on this bird, blue band X-01, next week.

Barbara Callahan, Director of Response Services and Interim Director for the last year, and JD Bergeron, incoming Executive Director.

Barbara Callahan, Director of Response Services and Interim Director for the last year, and JD Bergeron, incoming Executive Director.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not send out special thanks to IBR’s Response Services Director, Barbara Callahan, who has served as Interim Director for the past year. Barbara has led the team through a challenging year and has been gracious and generous with her time and knowledge. She is now taking  much-needed rest. Thank you, Barbara!

There are many ways to support IBR:

adopt a bird

become a recurring donor

join as a Pelican Partner


Please also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flicker, and YouTube

I love to hear from you so please get in touch!

Be well,





JD Bergeron
Executive Director


October 26, 2014

Love pelicans? Here are 5 ways you can help them.

Everyone here at International Bird Rescue is thrilled that Pelican Dreams, a documentary by Judy Irving six years Pelican-Dreams-Final-Poster-A-204x300in the making, takes flight this week in theaters throughout the San Francisco Bay Area — and across the country soon afterwards! Irving has dedicated the film in memory of International Bird Rescue director Jay Holcomb, who died in June at age 63.

This full-length feature follows California Brown Pelicans from their nesting colonies in the Channel Islands and Baja California to feeding grounds along the Pacific coast. As with The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, Irving brings a unique style to wildlife documentary filmmaking, one that’s highly intimate, even poetic.

Central to the narrative, Irving zooms in on two injured birds cared for by wildlife rehabilitators. International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center plays a leading role in the film: Viewers will get an intriguing glimpse of our pelican aviary, which can accommodate over 100 pelicans in need of expert care.

International Bird Rescue is a national leader in saving pelicans injured by human-caused threats. Every year, our veterinary and rehabilitation team cares for hundreds of these remarkable birds. We also work with partner organizations on the regional and national level to advocate for comprehensive monitoring of Brown Pelicans, which were removed from the Endangered Species List five years ago but continue to face threats to survival. Click here for a Los Angeles Times op-ed on this issue by International Bird Rescue’s Andrew Harmon.

A growing number of Pelican Dreams fans have asked us how they can help protect and preserve pelicans. We can think of five ways you can make a difference:

1Become a member of International Bird Rescue. We depend on the kindness and generosity of wildlife lovers like you to fulfill our mission to save seabirds and other aquatic species from human-caused problems, such as oil spills, plastic pollution, even animal cruelty.

Starting at $35, membership connects you with fellow pelican aficionados through our e-newsletters. You’ll also AWPE-Cheryl-Reynoldsreceive invites to members-only bird releases and International Bird Rescue events in 2015. Members who contribute $100 or more are eligible for the Puffins and Whale Tails miniprint by International Bird Rescue “artist in residence” David Scheirer. Click here to get started.

Want to make a bigger impact? Become a Pelican Partner and you’ll be invited on a private release of a Brown Pelican cared for at an International Bird Rescue center in California.

2Pick up discarded fishing gear and ocean trash. Fishing gear (think monofilament line, fish hooks and lures) is one of the most common threats to pelicans along our coasts. A large percentage of pelicans admitted to our wildlife centers have fishing gear-related injuries on their throat pouches, legs, wings and feet. Removing this debris from the environment has a direct impact on the health and well-being of pelicans and other seabirds.

3Volunteer. Whether it’s with International Bird Rescue or a partner wildlife group, volunteering is a fantastic way to give back to wildlife in your community and beyond. International Bird Rescue’s volunteer program is a unique, hands-on opportunity to work with animals. We also have volunteer needs in our administrative, development and operations departments. All volunteer duties are vital to the “Every Bird Matters” mission.

4Report sightings of Blue-Banded Pelicans along the Pacific Coast. To better track pelicans post-release, we place large, plastic blue bands with letter/number identification (“V13,” for instance). Birders all along the West Coast have reported hundreds of sightings. If you see a Blue-Banded pelican, please click here to report your sighting — and take a photo of the bird if you can!

5Keep pelicans wild. Like many birds, pelicans are susceptible to habituation. Birds that associate humans with food are more likely to dumpster-dive for scraps, beg on fishing piers, become entangled in fishing line, contaminate themselves with fish oil at fish-cleaning stations, and otherwise become too comfortable with the urban environment, where they are bound to run into problems. Keeping a respectable distance from these wonderful birds and refraining from feeding them is a great way to help keep them wild.

We also invite you to visit Pelican Media and discover more of Irving’s wonderful work. And tell a friend about Pelican Dreams!

 Protecting Pelicans
Protecting Pelicans infographic by Franzi Müller — click on image for full size version.

7564920904_c0ec633e9a_z Pelicans on Duty by Bill Gracey/Flickr; above: American White Pelican by Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue

September 3, 2014

Protecting Brown Pelicans

Protecting Pelicans by Franzi Muller for International Bird Rescue. Click on image for printable full-size.

It’s been a year of disquieting news about one of our beloved and most common patients, the California Brown Pelican. In the words of one prominent wildlife biologist, “the bottom dropped out” this spring at key pelican breeding sites in Mexico as well as the Channel Islands — the sole nesting site for this subspecies in the United States. Changes in ocean temperature and prey availability are potential suspects.

At International Bird Rescue, we’re committed to individual care of oiled and injured pelicans brought to our wildlife centers in Northern and Southern California. We treat these birds for a variety of reasons. Our graphic artist-in-residence, Franziska Muller of Germany, designed this infographic on threats to pelicans’ survival. We invite you to print out this wonderful image and distribute it wherever you see fit. We’re all eager to get the word out that pelicans still need our help, five years after they were delisted from the Endangered Species List. We’re also in active conservations with partner environmental groups about how we can best protect this iconic species for generations to come.

In a few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to do your part! On Sept. 20, International Coastal Cleanup Day will draw thousands of ocean lovers out to the shores to pick up trash and debris. We encourage everyone to keep an eye out for any discarded fishing tackle, which is a huge problem for pelicans, as you can see in the infographic above (please exercise caution in picking up any tackle with sharp hooks).

You can find out more about California Coastal Cleanup here.

Internationally, the Ocean Conservancy’s website is a terrific resource for worldwide events.

June 4, 2014

Release! Pink the Pelican

L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino releases Pink. Photos and video by Bill Steinkamp and Kira Perov (volume adjustment on lower right of video control panel)

Pink, a California Brown Pelican and now arguably one of the most famous patients in International Bird Rescue history, was successfully released on Tuesday afternoon at White Point Park in San Pedro, CA, by L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, assisted by a lovely young girl excited to see the bird off on its next adventures.

As you may have read, less than seven weeks ago this animal was brought to our Los Angeles center with its throat pouch nearly severed off its bill. A human-caused injury, the incident sparked outrage among animal lovers in Southern California and beyond. A $20,000 reward is still being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this illegal act. Tips may be made anonymous to US Fish and Wildlife Service at 310-328-1516.

Thank you to everyone who helped support the care of this bird, including the Port of Long Beach, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, Terranea Resort and countless bird lovers in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the country.

After two surgeries and weeks in care, this pelican made a record recovery and was very eager for release from our large pelican aviary. As part of our Blue-Banded Pelican Program, we banded Pink with a blue band reading V70. If you see Pink out along the Pacific Coast, you can report your sighting here.

Releases are always powerful experiences that cut through the madness of modern life. International Bird Rescue’s “Every Bird Matters” mantra was definitely the theme of the day. Photographer Bill Steinkamp was on hand to take some wonderful photos of the event. Enjoy!



Pink IMG_8820-L

Pink IMG_8826-L

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Pink IMG_8847-L

February 4, 2014

Speak Up for the Brown Pelican

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, over the past several years International Bird Rescue’s wildlife centers in Northern and Southern California have seen an influx in sick and starving Brown Pelicans.

Though this iconic bird of the Pacific Coast was removed from the Endangered Species List nearly five years ago, pelicans routinely need our help for many reasons: emaciation, domoic acid poisoning, fishing tackle injuries and oil contamination are all common problems we see. A lot of us got involved in this work because of our love of pelicans, and it’s hard to see them in this predicament.

When the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service took the Brown Pelican off the Endangered Species List in 2009, it was supposed to conduct monitoring to ensure continued progress. But we’re concerned that this vital conservation action hasn’t begun. So we’ve teamed up with our friends at Audubon California to advocate for this beloved bird.

And we could use your help. Will you send Fish & Wildlife an email urging them to protect our pelicans?

Click here for an email that you can send with your own optional message. It only takes a few minutes. Your voice matters!

Since 2010, we’ve seen starving pelicans seeking food inland. At the same time, breeding in the Channel Islands has failed five years in a row – the first time this has happened in 20 years. Biologists are attributing the breeding failures to a lack of sardines and anchovies near colonies.

If we’re going to figure out what’s happening with this bird – and take steps to protect it – we need the Service to follow though with monitoring and conservation action. Let’s work together to make this happen.

With gratitude,

Team International Bird Rescue

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P.S. Here’s suggested e-mail text:

Send to: fw8ventura_brownpelican@fws.gov:

Dear U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 8:

I am writing to request that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service finalize a plan to monitor the status of the Pacific subspecies of the Brown Pelican, and initiate colony monitoring at the Channel Islands.

As you know, this iconic coastal bird was removed from the Endangered Species List in 2009, after its numbers recovered dramatically over the previous 30 years. Unfortunately, recent breeding failures on southern California islands, as well as starvation events in California and Oregon, have prompted new concerns about the Brown Pelican’s status.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has yet to finalize or implement the post-delisting monitoring plan that the Endangered Species Act requires for all delisted species. As the Service said following the delisting in 2009: “The intent of this monitoring is to determine whether the species should be proposed for relisting, or kept off the list because it remains neither threatened or endangered.”

Right now, with no plan in place to guide monitoring and coordination, essential post-delisting activities are not taking place, and there is little information to inform a five-year status review due in 2014.

I understand that this request comes at a time when federal budget cuts have limited the Service’s ability to conduct every conservation program under its purview. At the same time, the Service’s failure to put in place a post-delisting monitoring program for the Brown Pelican undermines the Endangered Species Act, and threatens one of the Act’s greatest conservation victories since its passage.

Again, I ask that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service immediately move to finalize and implement its post-delisting monitoring program for the Pacific subspecies of the Brown Pelican.


Please e-mail to: fw8ventura_brownpelican@fws.gov

Protect Our Pelicans
Protect Our Pelicans infographic by Franzi Muller. Click on the image for full-size version.

October 22, 2013

This year’s Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest winners

Deanna Barth, this year’s winner of the Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest

The 2013 Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest has come to an end, and it was a success — although very different from the previous contest from October 2012 to January 2013. This year’s contest ran from July 29 through October 14. (Read more info on this program here.)

Last year, we were inundated with young pelicans at both of our Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay centers. Once released, they were easily spotted, as these birds spent more time around harbors. This year, the abundance of schooling fish along the coast was a real boost for pelicans, especially young ones, and we saw fewer young birds at our centers. About 150 young pelicans came into both our centers this year, compared to more than 600 in 2012. Because of this, we released fewer hatching-year birds, resulting in a reduced number of sightings.

But we still had some great sightings. During the duration of the contest, we had 41 Blue-Banded Pelican sightings, representing 35 individual birds. Twenty-two of these sightings were first-time spots: birds that have never been seen since their release. Though one of those birds was found dead in Mexico, the others were all sighted alive.

The winner of our sighting contest is Deanna Barth, a veterinary assistant of 14 years and avid wildlife rescuer and bird watcher. Deanna sighted eight Blue-Banded Pelicans from Monterey to Half Moon Bay, Calif. As the top spotter, Deanna won a Vortex Nomad 20-60 X 60 Angled Spotting Scope and a chance to release a rehabilitated Brown Pelican. Congratulations, Deanna!

Our second-place winner is Julie Howar. Julie is a wildlife biologist who is also a member of our oil spill response team. Julie spotted four Blue-Banded Pelicans, all near Pismo Beach, Calif. Julie won a pair of 2X Eagle Optics Denali 8 X 42 binoculars. Congratulations, Julie!

Our Blue-Banded Pelican Photo Contest winners are:

Banded Brown Pelican Coming Down

First Place: Marlin Harms, who photographed Pelican T82 near San Luis Obispo, Calif. on September 5.


Second Place: James Kenney, who spotted Pelican P06 at the Malibu Lagoon on October 14.
K15-10-12-13 Rodriguez

Third Place: Nathan Rodriguez, who spotted and photographed Pelican K15 at the Pacifica Pier on October 14.

The first-place photograph winner will receive a beautiful Alex and Ani pelican bangle, an honorary International Bird Rescue membership and an International Bird Rescue T-shirt. The second- and third-place winners will receive honorary memberships as well as T-shirts.

Check out the sightings below. Particularly interesting is K15, who has made a beautiful transformation, evident by his original juvenile plumage to his now adult plumage. K15 also spend his summer in Washington and then came back to California to the place he seems to like best, the Pacifica Pier!


Meanwhile, M32 still resides inland and is living at Bel Marin Keys near Novato, Calif. This bird has chosen to live inland.

Blue Band Number

Most Recent



Most Recent Date Sighted

Reason for Rehab

Release Date

Release Location

Previous sightings


Westport, WA


Thin, weak, contaminated


San Pedro, CA

2/9/12, 9/12 & 8/14/12   @ San Pedro – 6/18, 6/24 & 7/27/13 @ Westport, WA

Brown Rock, Pismo Beach, CA


 Thin, weak, first year bird


San Pedro, CA

12/28/12 @ Redondo Bch

7/12/13 @ Pismo Bch, CA


Brown Rock, Pismo Beach, CA

7/31/13 Fishing Tackle


San Pedro, CA

7/19/13 @ Pismo Bch.


Westport, WA


 Thin, weak, first year bird


Bodega Bay, CA


Westport, WA


Sea lion bites


 San Pedro, CA


 Brown Rock, Pismo Beach, CA


Fishing Tackle


 San Pedro, CA


 Brown Rock, Pismo Beach, CA


Sea lion bites


San Pedro, CA


Westport, WA


Thin, weak, contaminated


Sausalito, CA

6/17/12 @ Astoria, OR


Westport, WA


 Broken wing


 Sausalito, CA


Monterey, CA


Multiple injuries


Sausalito, CA


 Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay, CA


 Fishing Tackle


Alameda, CA


Westport, WA


Thin, weak, contaminated


Berkeley, CA

4/1/10 @ Santa Barbara, 2/9/12 @ San Pedro.  7/27, 7/31,13 @ Westport, WA


Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay, CA


 Fishing Tackle


 San Pedro, CA


Westport, WA




Sausalito, CA


 Squaw Is. OR


Thin, weak


 Alameda, CA


Westport, WA


Thin, weak


San Pedro, CA


Westport, WA


Thin, weak


San Pedro, CA

Westport, WA


Thin, weak


Sausalito, CA

Monterey, CA


Thin, weak, contaminated


Sausalito, CA

2/7/12, 4/24/12, 7/8/12, 7/14/12, 8/25/12, 9/2/212, 12/13/12, 8/21/13 in Monterey, CA


San Luis Obispo, CA


Fishing Tackle


San Pedro, CA

Pismo Bch, CA


Thin, weak


San Pedro, CA

Malibu, CA


Thin, weak


San Pedro, CA

Los Angeles, CA @ Will Rogers Bch


Thin, weak


San Pedro, CA

11/12/12 @ Coronado, CA, 11/15/12 @ San Pedro


Redondo Bch, CA


Fishing Tackle


San Pedro, CA

12/1/09, 1/21/10, 9/2/12, 9/15/12, 11/11/12, 11/12/20,  11/17/12, 12/8/12,  12/20/12, 12/26/12, 12/27/12, 12/28/12, 12/30/12  twice on 1/1&3/13, 1/15/13, 2/2/13 @ Redondo Beach Pier


Los Angeles, CA @ Will Rogers Bch


Fishing Tackle


San Pedro, CA

San Diego, CA @ Mission Bay


Thin, weak


San Pedro, CA

Long Beach, CA @ Terminal Island


Injured foot


San Pedro, CA

11/10/12, 1/2,3,7,20/13, 2/23/13 San Pedro, CA @ Commercial Fish Docks


Westport, WA


Thin, weak


San Pedro, CA

4/7/13 @ Westport, WA


Half Moon Bay, CA


Sea lion bites


Sausalito, CA

Half Moon Bay, CA


Sea lion bites


San Pedro, CA

Elkhorn Slough, CA


Thin, weak


Alameda, CA

9/28/2013 @ Half Moon Bay


Novato, CA


Thin, weak


Moss Landing, CA

2/8/12 @ Yolo Land Fill, Davis, CA,  6/14/12 @ Shollenberger Park, Petaluma, CA, 4/1/13 @ Novato, CA in Bel Marin Keys


Pacifica, CA @ Pacifica Pier


Pouch lacerations


Alameda, CA 11/12/11, 1/8/12,  2/17/12 10/30/12, 11/1/12, 11/6/12, 4 times on 11/10/12 11/26/12, 11/29/12, 1/13/12, 1/19/13, 3/3/13, 3/13/13 @ Pacifica Pier – 7/24/13, 8/13/13, 9/14/13 @ Westport, WA, 9/26/13 in Half Moon Bay, CA @ Pillar Point Harbor

Malibu, CA @Malibu Lagoon


Fishing Tackle


Sausalito, CA
October 11, 2013

Blue-Banded Pelican sightings this fall

Banded Brown Pelican Coming Down
Blue-Banded Pelican T82 surrounded by Heermann’s Gulls, photo by Marlin Harms

All field accounts indicate that it’s been a good year for seabirds along the West Coast that feed on schooling fish like sardines and anchovies. Fish seem to be plentiful to the point that they are drawing birds from the south, such as the current influx of Blue-footed Boobies that have made their way into California following large schools of sardines.

Last year at this time, our two centers were inundated with young pelicans. This year to date, our Los Angeles has received fewer than 100 first-year birds, compared to the nearly 500 young pelicans we had last year at this time. Our San Francisco Bay center has had less than 50 youngsters this year, compared to the 300 or so that had come in last year at this time.

We are not complaining. We are happy! If you go to any of the large pelican roosts, such as Dinosaur Rocks near Pismo Beach, the breakwaters at Half Moon Bay, Monterey or Astoria, Ore. and Westport, Wash., you will see lots of first-year pelicans, healthy and flying off to feed on fish offshore.

What this has done, however, is made the sighting of blue-banded birds from our Blue-Banded Pelican Program a bit more difficult. They are not hanging around people in harbors as much because they don’t need us. They have another fish source that seems to be pretty easy to access.

We still have had some really impressive sightings of a few of our rehabilitated birds though, and we wanted to share them with 6d6d79e6aa3e70eebfca8455b3765220you:

K15: This second-year bird, who was the darling of the Pacifica Pier throughout 2012, has been seen three times in Westport, Wash. this summer hanging out with other pelicans on the breakwater to the harbor. We were very concerned about this bird, as people fed it, took pictures with it and petted it for months in Pacifica and even called him their mascot. Because of this, we were skeptical about K15’s survival due to its habituation to humans and fishing piers. But the recent sightings have shown that when natural food is plentiful, pelicans tend to avoid humans, even if they know they can get a handout.

K15 was originally released on July 26, 2011. He has been too far away to get good photos, but he’s going into his adult plumage and looks like a different bird.

C34 ModschiiedlerC34 (shown left) was reported dozens of times last year, as he spent much of his time hanging out at the Redondo Beach Pier. There is even a video on YouTube where a family was feeding and trying to pet him. C34 is an adult bird that was released on Nov. 6, 2009. He was seen at the pier in February 2013 but then disappeared. He showed up again on Sept. 20 at the pier. Here’s a photo by IBR volunteer Paul Modschiiedler.

T82 (shown at the top of this post) came to us with a broken wing and was released on Jan. 31, 2013 in San Pedro, Calif. This bird was sighted on Sept. 13, 2013 making a graceful landing in San Luis Obispo, photo my Marlin Harms.

There is still time to find Blue-Banded Pelicans and a chance to win a spotting scope as part of this fall’s sighting contest. Just go to their roosting spots and scope for the bands!

You can see more photos of Blue-Banded Pelicans sent to us on our Pinterest page.

Have a photo of a Blue-Banded Pelican? Email us and we may feature it!

September 9, 2013

Thanks for celebrating the Pelican Aviary Project with us!

Aviary occupants, photo by Cheryl Reynolds


The commemorative sign for The Pelican Aviary Project

It was a scorcher in Fairfield, but thank you to everyone who stopped by our Saturday community event celebrating completed renovations to the pelican aviary!

Special thanks to Assemblyman Jim Frazier, State Senator Lois Wolk/District Director Lisa Chavez, Kyra Parker with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, the Solano County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, The Green Foundation, Kimberlee Baker, Dave Weeshoff, Hugh and Pat Denton; Lisa and Paul Matheson; and Joan Teitler and Larry Bidinian for their support of this aviary, home to hundreds of ill and injured pelicans and other birds every year.

Additional thanks to the good folks at Whole Foods Market –  Napa Valley, Hint Water and Winterhawk Winery for providing the amazing refreshments.

And last but certainly not least: Thank you to our amazing staff and volunteers for making this event such a success! Event photos by Russ Curtis.

Find out more about the Pelican Aviary Project from our Indiegogo campaign page here.


Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
Assemblyman Jim Frazier helps us dedicate the aviary

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
Assemblyman Frazier (right) with IBR board members Andrew Harmon and Laurie Pyne

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
Lisa Chavez, district director for State Senator Lois Wolk

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
Center manager Michelle Bellizzi explains the renovation project on the aviary

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
IBR board member/Bay Nature ambassador Beth Slatkin

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
Kyra Parker with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN)

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
Guests braving the heat … all for the pelicans!

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
A live look at BirdCam!

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
Kimberlee Baker speaks about the life and legacy of Donna Baker, who was instrumental in the original construction of the aviary. The Pelican Aviary Project is dedicated in her memory.

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
Our wonderful volunteer crew makes sure the animals are cared for!

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
Touring the outdoor grounds and the aviary

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013
Touring the center

Pelican Aviary Celebration at San Francisco Bay Center on September 7, 2013

Our wonderful volunteer team!

Volunteers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Juvenile Brown Pelican in care