Elegant Terns in tangle after being hooked together last month in Southern California. Photo by Nick Liberato
If you work in this business, you learn to live with a lot of heartache. For every case ending in an awe-inspiring release, there’s an animal whose injuries were just too much to bear.
Some stories are a mix of both.
Our Los Angeles center team recently received this adult Elegant Tern and a tern chick hooked together by a multi-hook fishing lure.
Nick Liberato, a biologist who monitors a tern colony on nearby Terminal Island, found the birds and took the photo upon rescue. “I spotted them as I was ushering some stray chicks back through the chick fencing and into the main rookery,” Liberato says. “At first, I thought they were just tangled in monofilament [fishing line], but when I saw that multi-hooked lure puncturing both of them, I knew my tools wouldn’t cut it, so I got them over to you guys as quickly as possible.”
Our rehabilitation team separated mother from chick and extensively nursed the severe wounds of both animals. Sadly, the tern’s injuries had already become infected, and this baby bird did not survive. The mother healed remarkably after several weeks of care, and was recently released by our intern and volunteer team at Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach, CA. You can see video of this story below.
Fishing hooks and fishing line are such a pervasive problem for seabirds, and a leading cause of injury in the birds we care for at our California centers. If you fish, be mindful of where your gear ends up. We know there are many fishermen who are responsible, and it’s our wish that you’ll spread this message to others. We are grateful that you set a good example out on the water and at the cleaning stations.
And we can all do our part by picking up plastic pollution and discarded gear wherever we see it in the marine environment. You may end up saving a wild bird’s life.
Meanwhile, a particularly busy summer of orphaned birds, injured pelicans and oiled seabirds continues full steam. By last count, we have well over 300 injured, ill or orphaned birds at our wildlife hospitals. Please consider making a donation to support the birds we all love. A gift of $100, $50, $25 or even $10 goes a long way.
Interim Executive Director
A bittersweet release: Elegant Tern from International Bird Rescue on Vimeo.