Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Patient of the Week

November 25, 2015

Patient of the Week: Heermann’s Gull


Photo Heermann's Gull hook removal at International Bird Rescue

A large fishing hook was removed from the stomach of a Heermann’s Gull (above) at International Bird Rescue. The gull is now in an outside aviary and is expected to fully recover. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds and Isabel Leuvano

A Heermann’s Gull is resting comfortably this week after our team removed a huge fishing hook that was lodged in the seabird’s stomach. It also had serious wounds at the corners of the mouth from the fishing line causing tissue damage.

Bird Rescue’s skillful veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, removed the hook at the San Francisco Bay Center. Post surgery, this bird has bounced back astonishingly well. The bird is already flying around our large aviary very enthusiastically, and the wounds are starting to heal.

The injured bird was found on November 8th in Santa Cruz and taken to Native Animal Rescue (NAR). It was transferred to Bird Rescue on November 14th.

A high number of seabirds enter our clinics each year with fishing tackle injuries. We encourage folks fishing to clean up after themselves. Hungry birds will eat fish scraps and embedded hooks are a big cause of injuries.

Heermann’s Gull (Larus heermanni) is a gray-bodied, white-headed gull that breeds in Mexico – mainly on Isla Rasa in the Gulf of California. It flies north along the Pacific Coast to southwest part of British Columbia. It’s a pretty aggressive gull and will chase other seabirds, especially Brown Pelicans, hoping to steal food.

These are your seabirds, too. Support their care: http://www.bird-rescue.org/donate


X-ray shows hook lodged in stomach area of a Heermann’s Gull.

November 18, 2015

Patient of the Week: Black Oystercatcher


The Black Oystercatcher chick that we raised from a hatchling at our Northern California center has been named Ash (Hebrew for “happy”) by our summer interns Mari, Ioana, Brittany, and Julie.

Graphic on Black Oystercatcher by International Bird RescueWith its new name, Ash has been transferred from San Francisco Bay Center to the Los Angeles Center in preparation for placement soon in the shorebird sanctuary at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

This bird was not able to be released because it was unable to learn the basics of taking care of itself in the wild.

The orphaned oystercatcher was captured at Natural Bridges beach in Santa Cruz, CA on August 7, 2015 by our friends at Native Animal Rescue (NAR). It arrived weighing 23 grams on August 9th. In the photo below, the newly arrived hatchling munches on mussels. The bird was then featured then as Patient of the Week.

Please join us in wishing Ash a happy life in her new home!

Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

Photo of Black Oystercatcher hatchling at International Bird Rescue

September 25, 2015

Patient of the Week: Red-Footed Booby

Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Rare visitor: Red-Footed Booby in care at Los Angeles Center. Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Photo of Red-Footed Booby was found at the Redondo Beach fishing pier. Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck

Red-Footed Booby was found at the Redondo Beach fishing pier. Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck

We are treating a Red-Footed Booby – a very rare visitor to Southern California – at our Los Angeles Center.

The seabird was found September 13th by Redondo Beach Animal Control on the Redondo Beach fishing pier. The officer observed that the bird was not moving.

Upon initial exam, the Booby was found to be molting with very poor feather quality. It had some mild eye trauma that has since been resolved.

The bird is doing well and it recently got moved into the aviary. The clinic staff is working on getting the bird to self feed, so, for now, it is getting supplemental nutrition​ and hydration. We will keep you updated on it’s progress.

The Red-Footed Booby (Sula sula) is among the smallest of Boobies. It’s a strong flier and will fly long distances in search of food.

This species is an uncommon west coast visitor and has been seen only rarely along the California coast. The Red-Footed Booby usually can be found in tropical and sub-tropical waters across the globe.

August 22, 2015

Patient of the Week: Black Oystercatcher (Hatchling)


Young Black Oystercather in care at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

We have a very special patient this week that may be the first hatchling Black Oystercatcher we’ve cared for in our 44+ years.

This orphaned Oystercatcher was captured at Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz, CA on August 7th by our friends at Native Animal Rescue (NAR). It arrived on August 9 weighing 23 grams. It has grown quickly and now weighs in at an impressive 112 grams.

The chick is in a shorebird box at our San Francisco Bay Center along with a surrogate parent (feather duster). It loves to munch on mussels and other mollusks.

Earlier this week eating mussels.

Last week Oystercatcher eating mussels.

At adulthood the Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) can grow to weigh 700 grams (24 oz) with a length of 47 cm (18.5 in). These noisy seabirds are found along the rocky coastal zones from Alaska to Baja California.

There only about 12,000 Black Oystercatchers along the west coast. They are associated with healthy, productive marine habitat and thus, a great indicator species of intertidal marine health.

July 25, 2015

Patient of the Week: Goose With Severe Fishing Line Injury

Canada Goose before having neck strangling fishing line removed.

Anesthetized Canada Goose prior to removal of strangulating fishing line.


After removal of fishing line from Goose’s neck. Photos by Rebecca Duerr – International Bird Rescue

On Wednesday this week our Los Angeles clinic admitted a patient with a severe fishing line injury.

This Canada Goose was rescued by the staff at El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach. When it arrived at our Los Angeles wildlife center we found thick wads of monofilament line constricting both legs, with yet more line around its neck. Fortunately, the leg injuries appeared mild, compared to other cases like this we have treated, but the neck wounds were very bad and warranted immediate surgery.


This wound shows the seriousness that birds face with discarded fishing line.

Our staff immediately anesthetized the bird to remove the line from the neck. Under the line, our staff veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, found deep lacerations encircling the whole neck. The damage was limited to the skin. Thankfully, the esophagus and trachea appeared undamaged. She removed some areas of dead skin and sutured the skin back together.

Donate-button-Make-GiftThe bird had obviously been trying to eat since its esophagus was packed with a hard dry ball of green grass that it couldn’t swallow.

We have hopes this goose will make a full recovery. Meanwhile our staff will provide supportive care and pain relief until the neck swelling resolves and the bird fully gets the hang of swallowing again.

Many thanks to El Dorado staff for their prompt rescue of this bird!

Please help wildlife by discarding fishing line in appropriate containers, and picking up any stray line you see that others have left. Animals like this goose thank you

If you would like to support the care of this wild bird, you can donate online now


July 7, 2015

Patient of the Week: Mallard With Scalp Laceration And Other Injuries

Mallard right after waking up from scalp surgery.

Female Mallard when she arrived at WildCare with a scalp laceration exposing her skull. Photo by Nat Smith


Mallard right after waking up from scalp surgery.

This female Mallard was transferred to us from our colleagues at WildCare in San Rafael, CA. When she arrived, she had several serious problems: a scalping injury at the base of the upper bill (consistent with being struck by a vehicle), a swollen leg with an infected tendon from a small puncture wound, and a broken wing (ulna).

Her scalp healed flawlessly and you can already see tiny feathers starting to regrow! Her foot infection was successfully treated and we are just waiting for final recovery from the wing fracture before being able to release this resilient bird.

As reported by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California’s Mallard population has declined 27% since 2014, following other declines in recent years.

Read more: How waterfowl species in California are faring during the drought.

– Rebecca Duerr, Staff Veterinarian, International Bird Rescue

Photo: Mallard Duck with her skin totally healed and feathers coming in.

Now with her skin totally healed and feathers coming back in. Photos by Rebecca Duerr – International Bird Rescue

May 8, 2015

Patient of the Week: Common Loon

Photo of Common Loon treated at International Bird Rescue

Following toe surgery this beautiful Common Loon is out swimming in our pools at the San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

Radiograph shows hook puncturing foot of Common Loon.

Radiograph: Fish hook fragment embedded in bird’s toe prior to surgery.

A Common Loon, our patient of the week, was rescued with a fish hook injury and is in care at our San Francisco Bay Center.

The Loon was found stranded in Fort Ord near Monterey, CA on May 1st. It was captured by our colleagues at the SPCA for Monterey County. The underweight but alert and active bird was transferred to us for further care and management of its fishing hook injuries.

This week our staff veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, performed surgery to remove infected tissue from the bird’s foot. Normally she prefers to wait until a bird’s plumage is fully waterproof before performing foot surgery, but this bird’s toe was already very badly infected so she opted to do the procedure right away.

Fish hook injuries often seem innocuous, but unfortunately, this is something we see far too often. A simple poke with a dirty fish hook may skewer tendons or joints and lead to terrible infections like in this bird. As shown in the photographs, fish hooks that puncture toes often cause osteomyelitis (bone infections) and cause adjacent bone to be eaten away by bacteria. Fish hook infections may also lead to systemic infections affecting the entire bird.

As of today this beautiful bird is mostly waterproof and out swimming in our pools. Current therapy includes antibiotics, pain medication, and lots of tasty fish.

adopt-bird-button-transNote: International Bird Rescue treats 5,000 injured and sick aquatic birds each year. We rely on the generosity of the public to help fund our bird care at both California centers. Please Adopt-a-Loon

Photo of Common Loon's infected foot before surgery at International Bird Rescue

Common Loon’s left foot prior to removal of a hook fragment and infected tissue. Photo by Michelle Bellizzi – International Bird Rescue

March 3, 2015

The Release Files: Bonaparte’s Gull

Bonaparte's Gull takes flight. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

Bonaparte’s Gull takes flight in Suisun Marsh. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

We recently returned a Bonaparte’s Gull to the wild after this patient was treated in the midst of the “Mystery Goo Response”.

This Bonaparte’s Gull was introduced as a Patient of the Week December 6, 2014. The bird was found at Silver Oak Winery in Sonoma County, and arrived with a very large laceration exposing its thigh muscles from hip to mid leg (3 inches long on a 120 gram bird!). It also had severe damage to its right foot.

BOGUThe thigh wound was surgically closed. The middle toe was not salvageable and was amputated, while the outer toe had a laceration that was sutured closed, and an injury to the inner toe’s first toe joint was stabilized with a splint for two weeks.

This bird’s injuries were consistent with what we have seen before in birds that have run into razor wire. After two months of treatment, the thigh laceration and foot injuries have healed very nicely and the bird grew new feathers on the new skin at the former thigh wound.

This resilient little gull spent the last few weeks flying and eating very well while growing in new feathers. It was released last month at the Suisun Marina.

– Rebecca Duerr, Staff Veterinarian, International Bird Rescue


February 7, 2015

Patient of the Week: “Gummy Bear” Horned Grebe Mystery Goo Survivor

Photo Horned-Grebe-Before-After-Mystery-Goo

Horned Grebe, left, before cleaning and after swimming in pool at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

We received more than 300 seabirds coated in the East Bay Mystery Goo and one particular Horned Grebe, dubbed by our clinic staff as “Gummy Bear”, really made an impression.

“Gummy Bear” was brought to our San Francisco Bay Center three weeks ago during the first wave of East Bay birds contaminated by the stick goo. In the video to the right, you can see that even the towel used to rescue the bird had to be carefully peeled off the bird’s matted feathers.

After cleaning the messy gunk from its feathers, it was discovered that this bird had abrasions to its elbows. After this Horned Grebe heals, “Gummy Bear” is expected to be released next week.

By the way, we don’t usually name our birds in care, but in this case it just stuck.

See earlier post: Mystery substance threatens seabirds in the San Francisco Bay

December 17, 2014

Patients of the week: the view from Pool B


Ruddy-DuckBuffleheadThis week’s featured patients are cohabiting outdoor Pool B of International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center. All belong to the family Anatidae, which comprises ducks, swans and geese.

The birds you see here are susceptible to crash-landings in urban areas and are often found stranded in cities following major storms — the variety of which we’ve experienced in California during recent weeks.

The female Ruddy Duck in the foreground belongs to the genus Oxyura, composed of stiff-tailed ducks.

Like grebes, these birds have legs placed far back on their bodies — an evolutionary feature that aids in diving propulsion as the birds hunt for underwater prey, but renders them largely immobile and helpless on land.

Both the two female Buffleheads and female Common Goldeneye belong to the genus Bucephala of sea ducks. They nest in tree cavities and will forage underwater for crustaceans and aquatic insects.  COGO

To date, our San Francisco Bay center located in Fairfield, CA, has cared for 3,154 birds in 2014 — a 15% increase over last year with two weeks still to go before 2014 ends. Your contribution makes this care possible.

For another look at our outdoor patients, visit our BirdCam for a live look at our grebes in Pool F.


December 6, 2014

Patient of the week: Bonaparte’s Gull

"Bonaparte's Gull in care at SF Bay Center"
Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

This week’s featured patient is a Bonaparte’s Gull, the only gull species known to nest in trees. It’s named after a historic figure, though not the one you’re thinking of: Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a 19th century French biologist and ornithologist who made significant contributions to American ornithology, is the bird’s namesake.

(There is, however, a bird that bear’s Napoleon Bonaparte’s name: the Napoleon Weaver, or Yellow-crowned Bishop.)

Shown here during an exam at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center, this Bonaparte’s Gull was found BOGUat a winery in Healdsburg in Sonoma County, about 70 miles from us. The patient was originally brought to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue prior to transfer to International Bird Rescue, which cares for many gull species, including California Gulls, Heermann’s Gulls and Mew Gulls.

The bird has a laceration across its hip as well as a foot wound. However, we’ve seen that the gull is eating very well and can fly.

Currently we’re housing the bird in an indoor enclosure. We’ll keep you posted on the recovery process!

Bonaparte’s Gull during breeding season, photo by Brian Hoff/Flickr CC

November 24, 2014

Patient of the week: A wayward Brown Booby

photo 5(1)-XL
Photos by Kelly Berry

Last week, our Los Angeles wildlife center received a Brown Booby — via Alaska Airlines. Let us explain …BRBO

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen several cases of Blue-footed and Brown Boobies traveling far beyond their usual tropical and subtropical ranges. An “invasion” of Blue-footed Boobies occurred in Southern California last fall, while over the holidays last year, a Brown Booby found beached in Northern California was transferred to our San Francisco Bay center from our friends at WildCare in Marin County.

This latest Brown Booby came to us from Alaska, nearly 3,000 miles from the species’ northern range in the Gulf of California.

According to SitkaNature.org, the animal was found on a fishing boat near Kruzof Island, and was transported to the Alaska Raptor Center. There, wildlife rehabilitators assessed the animal and found the booby had a wound on its back in addition to being cold and thin.

We don’t know why this bird flew so far north, though atypical weather patterns have certainly been documented in recent months. SitkaNature.org points to unusual warming patterns in several areas of the North Pacific, for example. photo 2(1)-XL

Two challenges were evident here: One, to get the bird healthy again, and two, to get it as close to a Brown Booby’s normal range as possible. In the case of the Northern California booby we treated last year, the patient was transported down to our Los Angeles center, much closer to this plunge-feeding bird’s range.

With the help of Alaska Airlines, our patient of the week was flown in an animal crate south to LAX, where our team picked it up and brought it to International Bird Rescue’s LA center, located about 20 miles away.

Center Manager Kelly Berry writes:

After loading her in the car, I peaked into the crate to find her actively preening. Once she arrived at the center, she received a full exam and began self-feeding right away.

We did find she is favoring her right leg. [X-rays] revealed nothing significant, so we are giving her warm water pool therapy to see if it helps her.

We’ll keep you posted on this remarkable patient! Many thanks to Alaska Airlines and the Alaska Raptor Center.

photo 3(1)-XL

October 22, 2014

Patient of the week: Common Poorwill

"Common Poorwill # 14-2978 in care @SF Bay Center"
Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

This eccentric new patient is a Common Poorwill, a species of nightjar and one of the few birds in the world known to undergo a hibernation-like state called torpor. They are nocturnal and forage through the night sky for moths and other insects.

This patient was recently transported to our San Francisco Bay center by Vallejo Animal Control, having been found on nearby Mare Island.

There are no visible injuries, but the bird is emaciated and was hypothermic upon intake. (Click on the player to the right to hear this bird.)

We gave this patient plenty of supportive care before transferring the poorwill to our friends and wildlife partners at Lindsay Wildlife Museum. Thanks, Lindsay!

Common Poorwill, Arizona, photo by Dominic Sherony/Wikimedia Commons

October 13, 2014

Patient of the week: Long-billed Dowitcher

Photo by Isabel Luevano

LBDWIf you’re ever on the beach in California, chances are it won’t be too difficult to spot a Long-billed Dowitcher busy at work, searching for prey using its distinctive long bill to probe wet sand and sediment in a “sewing machine” motion.

This Long-billed Dowitcher was recently transferred to us from our friends at Native Animal Rescue (NAR) in Santa Cruz, CA. The bird was found grounded in the yard of a member of the public in nearby Pleasure Point. During the intake exam, our team discovered a fractured clavicle and a wound over the dowitcher’s left elbow, rehabilitation technician Isabel Luevano reports. The injuries are likely the result of being caught by a predator.

On Friday, the bird under went surgery by Dr. Rebecca Duerr to stitch up the laceration over its elbow. This patient of the week is now living in one of San Francisco Bay center’s shorebird enclosures, sifting for the small invertebrates that our team deposits into pond mud for the dowitcher to discover.


Long-billed Dowitchers, photo by Eugene Beckes/Flickr Creative Commons

September 27, 2014

Patient of the week: Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail IMG_3288-L
Photo by Bill Steinkamp

This week, both our wildlife centers in California have cared for Virginia Rails, VIRAreclusive birds found in freshwater marshes.

This rail was found soaked and cold on Dockweiler Beach, not far from Los Angeles International Airport, by our friend and partner Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue. Rehabilitation technician Kelly Berry reports that after a full examination, the clinic team determined that the bird had suffered an unknown trauma — the evidence of which was dried blood around the bird’s right ear and a small patch of feathers missing from its face.

This rail was tube-fed for a full day before it began self-feeding. Impressive weight gain followed, and after the bird’s blood values were back to normal, our team released this secretive patient back into suitable marsh habitat.