• 148 species of seabirds (including the threatened Steller’s Eider) are at risk of gillnet bycatch, which kills an estimated 400,000 birds every year according to a new report. But solutions exist, and some have been spearheaded here in California, which has implemented depth restrictions on gillnet use to reduce bycatch of Common Murres and other seabird species.
More via One Green Planet:
Gillnettting is a method of fishing used most often on commercial boats, where large nets are dragged across large areas of water, entangling everything in its path. A new report estimates 400,000 seabirds alone are killed by gillnets every year.
The report suggests that 148 different seabird species are at risk of being caught in gillnets. However, Ramunas Zydelis, co-author of the new report, told Mongabay, “Bird bycatch in gillnets is not type-specific and species-specific. Not all the nets are equally dangerous. Nets set deep in waters are less likely to catch birds than nets in shallow places or drifting at the surface.”
The birds at most risk tend to be ones that dive deep into the water for food — this even includes some penguins, especially those living off South America. Although it seems like not much can be done about this issue, there are many solutions to lower and prevent bycatches in fishing nets. It’s the planning and implementation that needs to be worked on. [OneGreenPlanet.org]
Click here for a guest op-ed to this blog on seabird bycatch by BirdLife’s Rory Crawford.
• The pilot captain of the Cosco Busan — a container ship that slammed into the Bay Bridge in 2007 causing over 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel to spill into the San Francisco Bay — will not get his mariner’s license back. A federal judge on Monday dismissed Capt. John Cota’s lawsuit against the Coast Guard, which last year found that Cota “did not meet the medical standards and the professional qualifications requirements for renewal.”
More than 1,000 oiled birds were treated at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center following the spill; 421 were successfully released back into the wild. [Marin Independent Journal]
• Brutally cold storms slamming the Western Alaska coast have resulted in the deaths of many seabirds. [Alaska Dispatch]
• Humpback Whales off northern Vancouver Island use Rhinoceros Auklets and Common Murres to create “bait balls” of herring before the marine mammals gobble them whole. [Vancouver Sun]
• The size of the fleshy red “badge” on the heads of New Zealand’s Pukeko (pictured right) is indicative of its social status — “and [it] apparently grows and shrinks in keeping with the bird’s standing in its social group,” Phys.org reports. [Phys.org; photo via Wikimedia Commons]
— Paul Rogers (@PaulRogersSJMN) December 5, 2013
— BirdRescue.org (@IntBirdRescue) December 4, 2013
— United Nations (@UN) November 20, 2013
— Island Conservation (@NoExtinctions) October 24, 2013
Pilot whale stranding Florida Everglades – collaborative effort with NOAA, FWC, MMC, MARS. pic.twitter.com/aERRYmzU8H
— NOAA Fish Southeast (@NOAAFish_SERO) December 4, 2013
Look, sometimes you’ve had a long day and you just want to watch a birdwatching documentary.
— Aurora Nibley (@auroranibley) November 23, 2013
A few years ago, International Bird Rescue adopted the tagline “Every Bird Matters” because we wanted to show the world in simple terms what we’re all about. Whether it’s an oiled penguin in South America or an orphaned baby heron found in a Los Angeles storm drain, we care for one bird at a time. When they’re hurt by human activity—oil spills, road traffic, acts of cruelty—we accept our duty to give them the expert and compassionate care they deserve.
And it’s you who makes this work possible. At our California wildlife hospitals alone, International Bird Rescue treats over 5,000 annual patients. Some of these seabirds, such as Northern Fulmars and Laysan Albatrosses, have become important indicators of oceanic health, aiding critical research on climate change and marine pollution. But whether it’s an albatross or a duckling, every bird we care for has intrinsic value and is treated with utmost reverence and respect.
I’ve devoted my life to this mission, and I’ve never before seen a greater need for wildlife rehabilitation experts in the world. Your gift to International Bird Rescue ensures that professional care, medical supplies, food and other necessities are available for any environmental crisis. Please give today.
This year, International Bird Rescue has been called upon in Alaska, Canada and other locations, bringing our 42 years of field knowledge to oiled wildlife emergencies. We’ve released over 1,000 Brown Pelicans in our Blue-Banded Pelican Program that tracks the post-rehabilitation survival of this iconic species, once driven to the brink of extinction. Our team has even successfully cared for an injured Blue-footed Booby, found this September wandering in an urban area miles from shore (and hundreds of miles from its normal range). We have you to thank for all of these accomplishments, big and small.
Have you ever seen an injured wild animal? Did you want to help? When you give generously to International Bird Rescue, you do just that. Together, we can give these magnificent birds a second chance.
It’s hard work. But Every Bird Matters, indeed.
Best wishes for a joyful holiday season.
P.S. Interested in becoming a matching donor this holiday season? It’s simple—just email us and we’ll set up your matching donor day for online giving.
In late July, International Bird Rescue sent response teams to Canada to assist in the capture and rehabilitation of animals impacted by a bitumen release at the Canadian Natural Resources Limited Primrose Project in northeastern Alberta. Our teams worked at two different sites: the lake where oiled wildlife were captured, and the rehabilitation center in Edmonton where the animals were washed and rehabilitated.
At the rehabilitation site, our team worked alongside The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton and the Oiled Wildlife Society of British Columbia to rehabilitate the animals, including beavers, muskrats and many freshwater birds such as ducks, coots and grebes.
As the rehab facility was located about three hours from the spill site, logistics and transport of animals were a daily occurrence and an important component of this response.
The response ended in the first week of November when the weather became freezing and the likelihood of any product impacting animals was considered minuscule.
Below is the list of animals that we cared for in this response. — Jay Holcomb
• An abundant anchovy population — the reasons for which are currently unclear — provides for magnificent feeding frenzies of whales, sea lions and seabirds in California’s Monterey Bay. Via Audublog:
Nobody knows why anchovy are abundant here and scarce in other areas. This small, energy-rich fish can fairly be described as the single most important prey species for seabirds in Baja, California and Oregon due to its small size and nearshore distribution. Yet this essential prey item is facing new threats. While information on anchovy stock status is scarce, the little information that does exist suggest stocks have declined on the west coast over the past 20 years.
Fishing pressure is currently low, but is likely to increase due to the collapse of sardine over the past decade. Management attention and standards fall far short of what is needed to meet federal requirements for any actively fished species, let alone an essential prey item. [Audublog]
• A wind energy company charged in the deaths of 14 Golden Eagles and dozens of other birds killed by turbines agreed to pay $1 million in fines for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. [New York Times]
• Conservationists denounce a legislative proposal to increase logging on 2 million acres of Oregon forests, which could lead to a decline of habitat for endangered species such as the Marbled Murrelet. [American Bird Conservancy]
• The Nature Conservancy buys all but 6% of a 1,244-acre uninhabited island in Lake Michigan that serves as a key stopover for migratory birds. [Chippewa Herald]
• A declining horseshoe crab population in the Delaware Bay threatens the Red Knot, a medium-sized shorebird that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to designate as a threatened species. Along with the use of horseshoe crabs as bait, the pharmaceutical and food industries use a clotting agent in horseshoe crab blood to test for the presence of bacterial toxins. [New York Times; Red Knot photo by Hans Hillewaert/Wikimedia Commons]
• For all you Christmas Bird Count fans, “How to CBC Like a Pro.” [10,000 Birds]
• The 1,000+ bird species that call Burma home are the subject of “Dancing with Wings,” a new book featuring the Spot-billed Pelican, Black-headed Ibis, Oriental Darter and more. [The Irrawaddy]
• International Bird Rescue patient of the week: Horned Grebe at our Los Angeles center, photo by Bill Steinkamp. [Every Bird Matters Blog]
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) November 26, 2013
An unpleasant watch, but important video evidence: shearwater chick being predated by a black rat http://t.co/n2OUSQYTEU
— Seabird Evidence (@SeabirdEvidence) November 17, 2013
— Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) November 4, 2013
Climate talks produce enough hot air to warm planet, then end is tepid agreements: http://t.co/ES0H4TwvpJ
— Carl Safina (@carlsafina) November 25, 2013
According to last year’s data, about 22% of Brown Pelicans cared for by International Bird Rescue’s rehabilitation staff had confirmed injuries resulting from fishing gear, such as hooks and monofilament line, which can cause fatal constriction wounds.
And in 2013, we’ve seen a consistently high number of such injuries.
This Brown Pelican was found on November 12 at Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles and rescued by Marine Animal Rescue. Upon intake at our Los Angeles center in the San Pedro neighborhood, we removed multiple hooks off this bird, some severely embedded.
International Bird Rescue rehabilitation technician Kelly Berry reports that the pelican was emaciated and dehydrated, but has since gained over 300 grams and is living in an outside enclosure. The wounds caused by the hooks are receiving treatment on a daily basis.
For more reading on fishing gear pollution and what we can do to limit this nuisance from the marine environment, we heartily recommend SeaDoc Society’s Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project website.
Why do we show these images? After reading a recent post on fishing tackle injuries among seabirds, I realized that it may not be evident to everyone why we post these images and share these birds’ stories on our blog. It’s because fishing tackle and pollutants are daily obstacles for these animals, and we want everyone to know this. The real rub is that ALL of these problems can be fixed with just a little effort. Simply picking up discarded fishing line and tackle wherever you see it on a beach or pier, cutting it into small pieces and disposing of it makes a big difference. Many of these birds become entangled and injured by discarded fishing line and tackle that we walk by every day. — Jay Holcomb
• Scientists studying albatrosses find that these magnificent seabirds have incredibly sophisticated flight patterns, which harness wind energy to propel them far more efficiently than their 11-foot wingspan could muster through flapping.
Via National Geographic:
A team of scientists from the Technische Universitat Munchen in Munich, Germany, used aerospace engineering to reveal the birds’ unique flight patterns—a physical feat that has puzzled academics for years. By attaching GPS trackers to 20 wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans) in the wild, the researchers were able to study data from 16 of the birds as they left and returned to the Kerguelen Archipelago (map) in the Indian Ocean.
Albatrosses yo-yo up and down in the sky, taking advantage of momentum generated on their downhill glides in order to climb back up against the wind. These constant up and down changes in altitude keep the birds aloft without requiring much effort.
The research article, “Experimental verification of dynamic soaring in albatrosses,” is published in the current issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology. [National Geographic]
• The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has added 23 species to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (six of which were previously covered as subspecies of listed species). [American Bird Conservancy]
• A massive solar power project in California’s Coachella Valley is raising concerns regarding its impact on migratory birds. Scores of dead or injured birds with burned wings caused by intense radiation reflected off solar mirrors have been found on-site. [Desert Sun]
• For Rhode Island beachgoers, a relatively close look at nesting sites of the endangered Piping Plover, courtesy the Nature Conservancy and participating landowners. [Environmental News Network]
• A fantastic bird’s eye view of the Northern Gannet in flight: Researchers with the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute and the Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds attached lightweight mini-cameras and GPS tracking devices on 20 of these seabirds in the seas surrounding the UK.
“Gannets are long lived seabirds and there is still much to learn about their life away from the breeding colony,” said the University of Exeter’s Dr. Stephen Votier. “The application of technology to study the private lives of gannets has been influential to our research in the short-term, but the goal is to continue this work in the long-term to help provide a sustainable future for gannets and other marine life.” (Photo by Yeray Seminario.) [Vision Systems Design]
• Examining the increasingly early migratory patterns of the Black-tailed Godwit, scientists warn of climate change’s effects on bird migration. “We have known that birds are migrating earlier and earlier each year – particularly those that migrate over shorter distances. But the reason why has puzzled bird experts for years. It’s a particularly important question because the species which are not migrating earlier are declining in numbers,” Lead researcher Dr. Jenny Gill from the University of East Anglia’s school of Biological Sciences said. [Science World Report]
Top tweets of the week:
— Andy Revkin (@Revkin) November 14, 2013
— Humane Society (@HumaneSociety) November 8, 2013
— Nicholas Mallos (@NickMallos) November 15, 2013
— BirdRescue.org (@IntBirdRescue) November 11, 2013
— Sally Jewell (@SecretaryJewell) November 8, 2013
Burrowing Owl, photo by Magnus Manske/Wikimedia Commons
As a Master Bander since 1979, I’ve banded a lot of birds — most of them are the aquatic birds that we rehabilitate at our centers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay. But I also support the local rehabbers when I can by banding birds that they are interested in, and many are raptors. As we all know, Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA rehabilitates many animals and has a thriving raptor rehab program. I give them bands for some of the raptors that they release.
One of these raptors is a female Burrowing Owl assumed to be hit by a car in Berkeley, CA that came into care at Lindsay on Nov. 8, 2012 — one year ago today. The bird had various bruises and swelling, and radiographs confirmed a simple, mid-diaphyseal fracture of the left humerus. The fracture was pinned and wrapped, and the bird treated for over a month.
This owl survived her ordeal and made a good recovery. She was released at Cesar Chavez Park, in the Berkeley Marina area, on Dec. 27, 2012 with band number 0614-37468.
Last week, I received a band encounter from the Bird Banding Lab. On June 17, 2013, this bird was discovered alive and healthy by Jamie Groves, a graduate student of raptor biology at Boise State University who is studying Burrowing Owls near Kuna, Idaho, about 500 miles away from the release site. The bird still has her original band on, but Jamie added three color bands to easily identify the owl without having to catch her. Her color bands are: Right Leg: Mauve/Yellow and Left Leg: White/Aluminum Band.
More via Jamie Groves:
I banded this female, as well as her mate and their 7 nestlings (about 4 weeks old at banding). She was nesting in one of the artificial burrows that had been placed in the area some time ago. The nestlings were in really good shape, and from what I recall/see in my notes the female was in great shape as well. The few band-returns we have gotten back are from California, so it seems at least some of our owls like to go to there for the winter.
A big thanks to our friends at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum for their continued compassionate and professional care of our wildlife. And thanks to Jamie for reporting this owl to the banding lab. Much appreciated! —Jay Holcomb
• Conservation groups begin a nonnative brown rat eradication program on two islands off the coast of Cornwall, England to save Manx Shearwaters and Storm Petrels. “Among many challenges our seabirds face, the greatest threat on land is predation of eggs and chicks by brown rats,” said Jaclyn Pearson from the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project. Manx Shearwaters breed mainly in the Eastern Atlantic but are also uncommon visitors to the American East Coast. [BBC News]
• A land exchange between the U.S. Army and the City of Dublin in California’s Bay Area is raising concern among biologists about habitat preservation of the Burrowing Owl. Terms of the exchange call for six new developments on 189 acres of grasslands. “Trying to preserve the Burrowing Owl has been the most frustrating aspect of my career as a conservationist to date,” Craig Breon, past director of Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, told Bay Nature via email. “It wouldn’t take too much to save these guys, and we’re just not willing to do it.” [Bay Nature; photo by Magnus Manske/Wikimedia Commons]
• Chemical manufacturing regions in Russia and unregulated lead mining in the city of Kabwe, Zambia make the onerous list of the world’s 10 most polluted places, according to the latest report by the Blackstone Institute. [Mother Nature Network]
• Planes and bird strikes: The resulting crash can’t always be blamed on the bird. [Time]
• Bird-friendly coffee? Care2.com takes a look at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and its bird-friendly coffee certification. Over 40 species of migratory birds use coffee plantations as winter havens. Plantations with heavy canopy shade = a plus. [Care2.com]
• A Northern Hawk-Owl hitches a ride on a kayak. [Huffington Post Green]
• One week after negotiations over a marine sanctuary in Antarctica’s Ross Sea failed, observers raise concern over China’s resource surveillance expeditions to the continent. Its colossal research vessel and icebreaker Xuelong set sail for Antarctica on Thursday. [The Guardian]
Tweets of the week:
— Nature Conservancy (@nature_org) November 7, 2013
“Return Flight” video trailer: Bald Eagle restored to Channel Islands in face of severe DDT contamination :: http://t.co/akNr5ePreh
— BirdRescue.org (@IntBirdRescue) November 8, 2013
More research shows neonic pesticides compromise bee immunity http://t.co/E96XfAFM0L
— NRDC Switchboard (@NRDCSwitchboard) November 8, 2013
— Pacific Islands NPS (@PacificNPS) November 8, 2013
Another Successful Flight http://t.co/FjlJH9CpAY
— Operation Migration (@OperMigration) November 8, 2013
The Elegant Tern brought to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center last month with a gunshot wound is now flying well and on track for release, our staff reports.
“We are amazed that this bird has recovered so well after sustaining such a traumatic injury to its wing,” says Isabel Luevano, an International Bird Rescue rehabilitation technician.
“During the course of this tern’s care, we did notice that the bird was having waterproofing issues, which correlate with the bird’s entry wound at its shoulder. After two quick washes, we believe the bird is getting closer to release, and appears to be regaining its waterproofing back quickly,” Luevano says.
Anyone with information on the perpetrator or perpetrators behind this animal cruelty case should call U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Offices in Burlingame, Calif. at (650) 876-9078. Elegant Terns are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.