Every Bird Matters
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March 26, 2017

They’re Not “Seagulls”— and Other Fun Gull Facts!

Western Gulls and their three chicks at their a nest at the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco.

By Joanna Chin
Photos by Byron Chin

I have been a fan of gulls for over fifteen years. Amusingly enough, what piqued my interest was the gulls in the movie Finding Nemo. While those gulls were not the brightest, and thus their portrayal not the most accurate, I was so amused by them that I started paying more attention to the gulls around me. When you really look at them, gulls are beautiful, with their crisp white and gray feathers. They’re also adaptable—equally at ease on land, in the air, and on the water. While anyone can look at a gull and identify it as such, defining them is a challenge: My guide to North American Gulls defines them as a “widespread group of frequently gregarious, web-footed birds characteristically found near water.” I’ve learned a lot about gulls over the years, and though there is still so much for me to learn, I want to share some of my favorite gull facts so that you, too, might appreciate these intelligent and resourceful seabirds more.

• While many people refer to them as “seagulls,” this is a misnomer. Some gull species travel far inland, such as the Ring-billed Gull, and others are quite satisfied to hang around large lakes, rivers, and shipping channels.

• Gulls have an intricate system of communication. They’re big, strong birds that nest close to one another, and their extensive “vocabulary” helps to minimize fighting that could injure them or their chicks. This video from the Cornell Laboratory identifies and explains many of their calls. Next time you’re around a group of gulls, see if you can hear them making these calls—each species sounds a bit different, but they all have the same range of calls.

A pair of California Gulls and their two chicks. The male is giving the female a nice preen.

• Gulls have impressive site fidelity. They will return to the same area year after year to build their nests and raise their chicks. In the case of migratory gull species, many of these are faithful to their wintering sites, returning to the same territory winter after winter. If you pay attention to your local gulls, you will likely start to notice individuals hanging out in the same place every year!

• Gulls are monogamous. Most will stay with the same mate for many years, though “gull divorce” has been documented, often when there is conflict over nest-site or brooding duties or when one member of the pair is late returning to the nesting grounds. In addition, both males and females sometimes mate with birds other than their mate; these so-called “extra-pair copulations” occur with varying frequency amongst gull species.

Juvenile Western Gull by the Ferry Building takes a curious approach to a fisheye lens.

• Gulls are excellent parents. Both parents participate equally in incubating, guarding, and feeding the chicks well past fledging. They are fiercely protective and readily attack (including dive-bombing) people and other animals (including other gulls) that get too close to their nests. It is wise to keep your distance from gull nests, and to pay attention to the calls of the parents. If they’re vocalizing, they are telling you to step back from the nest!

• It takes time for a gull to grow up. All gulls require more than one year to reach maturity. If you’ve ever watched gulls for any length of time, you’ve probably seen gulls that were the size of adults but were completely brown. These are the “first cycle” gulls, the ones that hatched within the past year. Smaller-sized gull species may require as few as two years to reach adult plumage, whereas the larger gull species need four years. As they mature, gulls lose their brown feathers, replacing them with white/gray/black feathers. Many gulls also have color changes in their bills and feet.

Seagull Monument, Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Wikipedia

• Gulls can be heroes. According to Mormon legend, in the spring of 1848, the first group of Mormons in what is now Salt Lake City planted their crops, only to have a swarm of insects (now known as Mormon crickets) descend upon their fields and begin eating everything in sight. Soon after, large numbers of California Gulls arrived and began consuming vast numbers of the insects, thus saving the crops and ensuring the survival of the Mormon settlers. Thus, the California Gull was designated as the state bird of Utah. In addition, the Seagull Monument was erected in Salt Lake City in honor of the California Gull.

• Gulls thrive where humans reside. Most people are well aware of this: Anyone who’s been to the beach has likely seen (or been the victim of) gulls scavenging food. Gulls are intelligent and patient scavengers. They know our habits and where to find an easy meal. Instead of getting upset, consider that we are the ones making this behavior possible. We must change our behavior to change theirs. Gull overpopulation has become a serious issue in some areas, including having a negative impact on other bird species, particularly ground-nesting shorebirds, as gulls eat their eggs and chicks.

The Western Gull is a scavenger and temptations abound when human garbage is plentiful.

Ways you can help:

– Never, ever feed the gulls! In addition to teaching them bad habits, much of our food is harmful to their health.

– Dispose of food waste appropriately, in a covered bin. Don’t leave food unattended, such as in an open bag on the beach. Even a sealed bag of chips is easy pickings for a hungry gull!

– Reduce the amount of food you discard from your home. Instead of sending food scraps to the landfill, consider composting! Your plants will thank you, too.

Now, head out there and watch some gulls! Most places, especially along the California coast, feature multiple species of gulls. Stay tuned for a blog post on basic identification of some of our more common gull species!

 

March 21, 2017

Know Your Gulls: A Very Basic Guide To Identifying Our Local Gulls

By Joanna Chin

Anyone can identify a gull, but did you know that there are over 50 species of gulls worldwide? And do you know which gull species live near you, and how to tell them apart?

March is Gull Month at International Bird Rescue, and we think a good way to celebrate this month is to learn how to identify some of our local gull species! We’re going to look only at adult plumage here, since all gulls have juvenile plumages that can make identification tricky for even the most experienced of birders. We’ll start with the basics of five gull species in California.

Please note that there are more than five species of gulls in the state, but the ones we’re going to concentrate on are some of the more common and distinctive. If you are interested in more gull information, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has wonderful information on the family Laridae (which includes gulls and their close relatives, terns and skimmers)!

Western Gull

Female Western Gull does the “head-toss” motion to signal to her mate. Photo by Byron Chin

The Western Gull is one of the most common gull species on the California coast. It is a large gull with a fairly dark gray back, black primaries (the feathers at the tips of the wings), pink feet, a yellow orbital ring (the narrow ring of flesh around the eye), and a sturdy yellow bill with a bright red spot on the mandible (lower half of the bill) called the gonydeal spot. This red dot serves a special purpose: It’s a target that the gull chicks peck at to entice the adult to regurgitate food for them. Although very common along the coast, Western Gulls are rarely seen more than two miles inland. These gulls do not migrate, and their appearance does not change during breeding season.

Glaucous-winged Gull

Glaucous-winged Gull is lighter grey than Western. Photo by Byron Chin

The Glaucous-winged Gull looks a lot like the Western Gull until you look carefully! For one thing, the Glaucous-winged Gull’s back is a much lighter gray. Also, this gull has no black at all—the primaries (wingtips) are the same light gray as its back— and both its legs and its orbital ring are pink. Like the Western Gull, The Glaucous-winged Gull has a yellow bill with a red gonydeal spot. These birds breed along the northern Pacific Coast but head down the coast in the wintertime. You will often see them with some brown speckling on their head in the winter (something you’ll never see on a Western Gull). But just to make things complicated, Glaucous-winged Gulls hybridize with Western Gulls, producing a gull that looks somewhat like each of them! This happens frequently enough that these hybrids, which are common on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, have their own name: the Olympic Gull.

California Gull

California Gull tends to be smaller than the Western or Glaucous-winged. Photo by Byron Chin

The California Gull travels farther inland than either the Western or Glaucous-winged Gull. It tends to hang out in parking lots, as well as near the coast. It is smaller than the Western or Glaucous-winged and has a medium-gray back with black primaries, yellow-green legs, and a red orbital ring. Its eye is very dark (much darker, in fact, than the Ring-billed Gull I’ll discuss in a moment), it has a red gonydeal spot on the mandible of its bill, and it has a black ring near the tip of its bill. The corners of its mouth turn downward a bit, giving it a distinctive “frowning” expression! Like the Glaucous-winged Gull, the California Gull has brown speckling on its head in winter.

Ring-billed Gull

A Ring-billed Gull and a dozen cohorts. Photo by Byron Chin

The Ring-billed Gull lives in California during the winter (non-breeding) season and migrates to the northern U.S. and Canada during the summer to breed. It is just slightly smaller than the California Gull and has a medium-gray back, black primaries, bright yellow legs, and a red orbital ring. It also has bright yellow irises, giving the Ring-billed Gull a very “beady-eyed” appearance. Its bill is yellow with a thick black ring around it, and there is no red whatsoever. In winter, when this gull is in California, it has the brown speckling on its head. Like the California Gull, the Ring-billed Gull is found on the coast, as well as farther inland and in parking lots.

Heermann’s Gull

Heermann’s Gull takes flight in Monterey, CA. Photo by Byron Chin

The Heermann’s Gull is unlike any other gull you’ll find in California. It winters in the state but migrates to Isla Rasa, a small island in the Sea of Cortez near Baja, California, every summer to breed. In breeding plumage, the Heermann’s Gull’s back is dark gray, the remainder of its body is light gray, its primaries are black, and its head is pure white. It has black legs, a red orbital ring, and a red bill with a black tip. In the winter, when this gull returns from breeding, its head is heavily speckled with gray. Heermann’s Gulls are known to employ a feeding strategy called kleptoparasitism, which means they steal food from other birds, most commonly the Brown Pelican. Sometimes they are seen landing on a pelican’s head and reaching right into its pouch to steal fish! The Heermann’s Gull is, unfortunately, quite susceptible to climate change. Because it nests almost exclusively on a small island in the Pacific Ocean, events such as El Niño and “the Blob” (an unusually large mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean) can reduce the supply of food and influence breeding success. In fact, the Heermann’s Gull has had near total breeding failure for the past two years. Conservation efforts and swift action to slow climate change are critical to preserving this gorgeous species.

Share Your Gull Photos

Do you have a good picture of a gull, tern, jaeger, or a skimmer to share? Submit your photos to gulls@bird-rescue.org, including your name, the species and where the photo was taken, and you may see your photo soon on our social media.

Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more beautiful photos of gulls, terns, jaegers, and skimmers!

 

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.

 

February 20, 2017

Lucky Duck In Accidental Netting

merganser-caught-netting-500px

Hooded Merganser flew into netting surrounding the golf course at Pt. Hueneme Navy Base.

This handsome, young Hooded Merganser was caught in a net – but not in the usual way. It was found earlier this month in the netting surrounding the golf course at Pt. Hueneme Navy Base in Oxnard, CA. Using a cherry picker, a local biologist tried to extricate the bird, but was unable to get to him from the right side of the net. The young bird ended up dislodging himself and falling to the ground, but fortunately was relatively unharmed.

Thanks to our friends at Santa Barbara Wildlife Network for stabilizing the merganser before it was transported to our Los Angeles Wildlife Center in San Pedro. It had a luxated (dislocated) toe tip and recuperating in one of our pelagic pools.

Hooded Mergansers are diving ducks and the smallest of three merganser species. Named for their elegant head crests, these little ducks are found in small ponds and along rivers hunting for fish, crayfish, and more. Read more on the Audubon site

Hooded Merganser photo by Katrina Plummer

 

February 7, 2017

Share your love of birds with that special someone this Valentine’s Day!

help-a-redhead-duck-button

Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Make a $70 gift and receive a beautiful Bird Rescue 2017 calendar, a mixed flock Membership, and Redhead diving duck photo print! Your gift honors a loved one and makes sure aquatic birds in need get the best care.

Please note: Order by midnight Wednesday, February 8th, to ensure delivery by Valentine’s Day!

 

February 2, 2017

Young Scientists Give Us Hope

pa-kids-1

pa-kids-2Who are some of the folks most interested in preventing oil spills and cleaning up injured wildlife? That’s right: The Next Generation!

Recently, our Response Services Manager Michelle Bellizzi, met with a talented and determined young group of burgeoning scientists from Pennsylvania via video conference.

These young up-and-comers are investigating new products to remove oil from feathers. They hope someday this will make oiled bird care easier on the birds and on the people that clean them. Because we’ve had lots of experience perfecting the washing of birds using Dawn dishwashing liquid, they looked to us at International Bird Rescue for our perspective.

One of the reasons this group also sought out Bird Rescue is that they are competing in the First Lego League – an international robotics competition, with a Regional Championship in Philadelphia this weekend. One of the features of this league is to work on a project related to the annual theme. This year’s theme was “Animal Allies.” Their team name is called Bird SPA (short for Sodium Polyacrylate).

We at Bird Rescue are always seeking the best ways to care for oiled wildlife, and are excited to hear that youthful allies also are searching for new discoveries and inventions!

 

January 31, 2017

Celebrating Volunteers​ And Birds With A Nature Walk At Bolsa Chica

Bird Rescue volunteers join IBR's Executive Director JD Bergeron, second from right, during a bird watching trip to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Volunteers join Bird Rescue’s Executive Director JD Bergeron, second from right, during a bird watching trip to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Bufflehead

Bufflehead

Our wonderful International Bird Rescue volunteers help every day in so many ways. To honor their commitment, IBR Executive Director, JD Bergeron helped organize a bird walk last week to to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. In the busy world of rescuing birds, a trip for relaxation and connecting with nature is so very important.

During the walk, volunteers from our Los Angeles Center scanned the reserve waterways located in Huntington Beach, CA. The payoff was great: The group spotted 41 different bird species, including a very handsome Reddish Egret and a striking Bufflehead.

Thanks to the excellent wildlife photographer Katrina Plummer for capturing this outing.

reddish-egret-bolsa-chica

Reddish Egret

Thank you volunteers for your incredible support!

Thank you volunteers for your incredible support!

 

January 26, 2017

Going The Extra For Mile For A Scoter

Female Surf Scoter is recuperating in the pelagic pool at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Female Surf Scoter is recuperating in the pelagic pool at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Every week we get injured or sick birds delivered to us by the concerned public. This week we want to highlight one such rescue – someone who went above and beyond to deliver a sick Scoter to our San Francisco Bay Center.

A little attitude the first day of care. A good sign that this scoter is on road to recovery. Photo by Jennifer Linander

A little attitude during first day of care is a good sign that this scoter is on road to recovery. Photo by Jennifer Linander

Emily Foden drove more than four hours this week from the town of Westport located on the storm battered coast of Mendocino County. Her cargo? A female Surf Scoter.

Emily’s friend found the bird January 20th on Rockport Beach in need of care. Knowing that Emily worked with birds (owls) she asked for help. Emily noticed the Scoter was very cold, so she warmed her up and offered her some fluids. Turning to the internet Emily then did some research to find the best place for care. The good folks at Sonoma Wildlife in Petaluma referred her to us. It took her over 4 hours to bring the Scoter to Fairfield.

When the Scoter arrived senior rehab tech, Jennifer Linander, opened the box she was huffing, but only little thin and dehydrated. As Jennifer noted the bird was BAR for “Bright, Alert and Responsive.”

Emily said she just “wanted her to have the best chance” for survival. For going the extra mile we want to say thanks to Emily and the hundreds of other folks that go long distances in effort to help save our treasured wildlife.

Also: See the Scoter on our live BirdCam: https://www.bird-rescue.org/birdcams/live-san-francisco-bay-center.aspx

 

December 30, 2016

Note from our Vet: The Broken, the Lacerated, and the Critically Injured

baby-bird-becky

Dear Friend,

Here at International Bird Rescue we specialize in caring for waterbirds that have been affected by people—whether contaminated by oil or Mystery Goo, baby birds that have fallen from nests onto hard concrete, or birds who become entangled in fishing line or have hooks embedded in their body.

bird-special-donate-buttonAs Bird Rescue’s veterinarian, I specialize in treating the worst off of our patients—the broken, the lacerated, and the critically injured. With the invaluable help of our staff and volunteers we are able to pull off some pretty amazing recoveries—like my favorite patient of the year, an American White Pelican who arrived with two broken legs! He recovered very well after having pins in both legs—he’s shown here being released back into a flock of his own species. Read more here.

Even our youngest and tiniest patients often need surgical help: this Green Heron chick had a pin placed in his wing to help his bones grow straight and strong after being broken in a fall.

My other favorite patients of the year were our adorable Double-crested Cormorant chicks. I was so proud of our team for raising these delicate chicks into fat, feisty youngsters without making them at all comfortable around people! Raising wild animal babies to not only grow up strong and healthy but to remain psychologically wild is always a challenge.

But the high quality medical care we are able to give our patients would not be possible without your help. Each year we need surgical supplies, orthopedic pinning equipment, and bandaging materials for treating hundreds of fishing gear injuries, plus medications and a whole lot of food to feed our patients.

I ask you to please consider making your largest contribution to Bird Rescue to help us pay for these critical supplies and more to give birds the care they so deperately need and deserve. Please help us by making your generous gift today!

Sincerely,

becky-web-sig

December 23, 2016

Success Stories: Snowy Egret #A09

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Released in 2012, this Snowy Egret was spotted, photographed and reported this month by Leslie DeFacio.

One of the biggest rewards of working in wildlife rehabilitation is seeing treated birds released back to the wild. The one thing better is learning that these patients are now thriving back in nature.

This holiday season at International Bird Rescue one particular bird brings us further joy. A Snowy Egret released in 2012 was spotted in the San Francisco Bay Area this month by bird enthusiast Leslie DeFacio of Alameda, CA. She reported the bird as active, wading, walking, pivoting, flying, and overall very healthy looking.

This Egret was treated at our San Francisco wildlife rehabilitation center back in May of 2012, after being rescued after falling from the nest at West 9th Street rookery in Santa Rosa, CA. After providing supportive nutritional care and treatment for a minor elbow wound, it was released in June of 2012 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline Park in Oakland. Before release it was banded with red band number A09.

Flighted Snowy Egret A09 at Bay Farm Island. Photo by Leslie DeFacio

DeFacio submitted an online bird banded report that indicated the Egret was seen at Bay Farm Island, Shoreline Park in Alameda – not far from the release location in 2012. It was seen with 4 – 6 other Snowy Egrets foraging/feeding at sunset along the shoreline of the San Leandro Channel. This Egret has also been spotted and reported multiple times in 2015 – most recently in April 2016 by avid birder Cindy Margulis, Executive Director, of the Golden Gate Audubon Society.

Tracking rescued and rehabilitated birds after release provides us with valuable information. Before release we secure ID markers-loose, non-obstructive, plastic and/or metal bands-around one or both legs. These enable us to gather data on returning patients, live sightings, breeding success, travel patterns, and life span.

At Bird Rescue we add our own special colored bands to certain bird species: Red bands for Snowy Egrets, white bands for Black-Crowned Night-Herons and the blue bands for Brown Pelicans. You can learn more about the banding program here: https://www.bird-rescue.org/our-work/research-and-education/banding-program.aspx

Since 2009 our citizen science project relies on the public to spot and report these banded aquatic birds that have been banded with special colored bands. If you see a banded bird, please report it here: https://www.bird-rescue.org/contact/found-a-bird/reporting-a-banded-bird.aspx

Thanks again to Leslie DeFacio and Cindy Margulis for submitting this important location data on A09. With the public’s help we expect to see more of these success stories in the future.

A09 Snowy egret was also photographed and reported in Alameda in April 2016. Photo by Cindy Margulis

Snowy Egret A09 was also photographed in Alameda, CA and reported in April 2016. Photo by Cindy Margulis

November 24, 2016

Wishing You A Very Happy Thanksgiving!


From this Leach’s Storm-Petrel and all of the staff and volunteers of Bird Rescue, we wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

We are most thankful for your continuous support of our mission to mitigate human impact on aquatic birds for the last 45 years. This work would be impossible without you. Our hands, your help, makes all the difference in caring for birds like this tiny storm-petrel.

Although Leach’s Storm-Petrels usually fly at night, if you could see them, you’d recognize them by their distinctive zigzagging flight. They are colonial nesters that build their homes of dry grasses and stems and can be found burrowed in a field or among rocks. (Author, Stokes) Learn more about the Leach’s Storm-Petrel from our friends at Audubon by clicking here.

Want to help give a bird a second chance? Then mark your calendar for #GivingTuesday next week and remind your friends about us by forwarding this email! Thanks for your continued support!

Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

 

October 31, 2016

Monsters Inside Us: Avian Eye Flukes

Photo of Microscope view of avian eye fluke

Microscope view of avian eye fluke. Photo by Lisa Robinson/International Bird Rescue

What could be creepier than the thought of having worms in your eye? This past year at International Bird Rescue we have seen quite a few cases of weird and horrifying eye worms in our patients. We don’t know if the increase is some side effect of California’s drought perhaps concentrating larger numbers of birds in smaller bodies of water, or some other factor. But in honor of Halloween we thought we’d share some knowledge about parasites of the eye. Knowledge is a good thing, right?

Philophthalmus gralli is a trematode (aka fluke) parasite that affects many species of birds. These worms look like miniature flatworms that have two suckers. The adult worms attach inside the bird’s eyelids in and around and on the conjunctiva and under the nictitans (3rd eyelid), where they suck blood and make lots of babies while irritating the heck out of the eye, of course. The fluke eggs hatch as they are released directly into water, where they find a snail they need for their next life stage. The ‘ripe’ larvae that leave the snail later encyst on aquatic vegetation, and wait for another bird to eat the plant. Once in the bird’s mouth they quickly burst free of their shell and make their way to their happy place in the eyelids of the bird to become an adult.

Yes, people can get this disease…but humans don’t get these dastardly worms directly from the birds! Instead, we can catch them from eating aquatic vegetation infested with worm cysts. We thankfully don’t have to worry too much about staff and volunteer exposure to these parasites since our pools lack a population of snails for the worms to complete their life cycle…but ewww!

Read more about their life cycle here: https://www.cdc.gov/dpdx/philophthalmiasis/index.html

September 2, 2016

Adopt-a-Loon in Honor of Loon Month!

Loon

This September we celebrate Loons as our bird of the month, and the unique care that is required for this particular species. Have you ever heard the sounds of a Loon? We’ve got a great video posted on our Facebook page, where you can watch and listen to the beautiful vocalizations. When a Loon comes through our doors, we must work quickly to stabilize, as loons tend to be one of the more fragile species we get into care.

Did you know it costs $10 a day to provide a Loon with fish to eat, the necessary medical treatment and supplements, and clean water to swim in?

This means for Loons alone, the average cost is $300 a month!

Will you help us by adopting a Loon today for just $10? For every Loon adopted we will share on our social media sites, to encourage participation and help meet our fundraising goal of $3,500. This will cover our estimated cost for caring for this species in the year ahead.

You can even adopt a bird as a gift to someone that you know works really hard as a thank you to him or her, while also helping a bird today. Your adoption includes a fun downloadable PDF that you can print and display proudly.

Will you help us reach our fundraising goal of $3,500 this month by adopting a Loon today?

Adopt-Loon

July 15, 2016

Meet Talia: A Bird Rescue Intern Making A Difference

Talia-Science-FairWe are pleased to honor Talia Baddour, above, a recent intern at International Bird Rescue (Bird Rescue) in San Pedro, CA, who was the recipient of the first place award in the Zoology category at Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District Science and Engineering Fair. She was also awarded the United States Air Force Award at a science fair held at the South Bay Botanical Gardens.

HCBF_Logo with webTalia came to Bird Rescue through the Harbor Community Academic Internship program. This program is funded by the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation which gives local students the chance to gain experience in wildlife conservation and biology. The program also gives Bird Rescue the opportunity to connect with local students in the community. Due to the nature of the work performed at Bird Rescue, community interaction is limited. The program allows Bird Rescue to expand this interaction by granting students with an interest in animals, wildlife conservation, or biology access to see how the field operates outside the academic world.

Talia was accepted into the Harbor Community Academic Internship program in the summer of 2015. During her time at Bird Rescue, she witnessed the human impact on the local sea bird population, watched people who have dedicated their careers to mitigating this impact, and observed the importance of a positive and welcoming work environment. In her words she said “actually seeing first-hand what birds go through and how they are affected by people has helped me understand the importance of protecting them.” The internship allowed her to experience the amount of work that goes into helping injured birds and eventually returning them to the wild. She further stated the people she interacted with at Bird Rescue were “the most social coworkers I have ever had,” and they played a major role in helping her complete the research project.

The program requires the intern to work on a research project focused on a subject related to the work done at Bird Rescue. With the help of the Bird Rescue staff the intern chooses a project in an area that is of most interest to them. Talia studied a phenomenon known as Broken Feather Patch (BFP), which affects aquatic bird species such as loons and Common Murres. A bird that is found to have a BFP typically cannot maintain its plumage in a waterproof state. The BFP structurally compromises the bird’s feather layers leaving their skin to be exposed to cold ocean water, leading to hypothermia. In her research, Talia found that Common Murres are more likely to have a BFP than any other species. She also found that most birds (59%) coming in with BFPs were from Malibu beaches. This led her to theorize that because Malibu has so many miles of beach property and a high number of people visiting these beaches that the stranded or beached bird was more likely to be recovered in these areas. Finally, she noted that although BFPs were more common in non-oiled birds, they were the primary reason for euthanasia in oiled ones.

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Talia with other interns who helped at Dawn dish soap event featuring Ian Somerhalder, right, as the guest celebrity.

Interns have the opportunity to participate in events held by Bird Rescue. Talia helped with an event sponsored by Dawn dish soap featuring Ian Somerhalder as the guest celebrity. This event was held to raise awareness of human impact on the environment and highlighted the partnership Dawn has with Bird Rescue. The event was held at the Bird Rescue San Pedro facility and allowed the staff and volunteers to take part in educating the public. Events such as these occur frequently at Bird Rescue in an effort to educate the public about the work that takes place in this unique environment. The interns are welcomed to help and participate in many aspects.

Another benefit of the internship program is the opportunity to participate during environmental crises, such as oil spills. Interns gain first-hand knowledge and hands-on experience by aiding the staff in these events. They work in a fast-paced work environment alongside the staff and learn how bird care is performed when high volumes of effected birds are rehabilitated simultaneously.

In March 2016, Talia entered her research study in the Palos Verdes Peninsula United School District (PVPUSD) Science and Engineering fair. This event is held by The Palos Verdes Peninsula Education Foundation (www.pvpef.org). This foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing key programs and staff to the local schools. Talia was awarded first place against 18 student entries in the category of Zoology. She also won the United States Air Force Award, in a field of 115 entrants at a science fair held at the South Bay Botanical Gardens. After winning these two awards, Talia decided to continue working with Bird Rescue by volunteering in the hospital and working with the birds directly.

This internship program has proven to be highly beneficial. Interns receive the unique opportunity to interact, research, and observe the amazing work performed at International Bird Rescue. Those that have graduated the program have walked away with invaluable skills that they can apply in their future career choices.

May 2, 2016

Meet Bart Selby, Ace Pelican Spotter!

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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:
http://ca.audubon.org/brownpelicansurvey

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.

Resightings:
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.