Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Patient of the Week

March 22, 2016

Patient of the Week: Great Blue Heron

GRBE-Avairy-wing-wrap-2016-redWe get a lot of birds with broken wing bones into our wildlife centers each year. This latest patient is a Great Blue Heron that was found in Milpitas, CA with a fracture of radius and ulna (see x-ray). Great Blue Herons are among our most challenging patients because of their size and intense skittishness. In fact, we have to keep them in quiet isolation as best we can because they can become spooked easily and harm themselves by bumping against the sides of their enclosure.

This week our dedicated staff and veterinarian at our San Francisco Bay center may “pin” the fracture soon to aid in the healing of this majestic heron. Right now, the bird is doing well with its purple wing wrap and it has a healthy appetite.

The Great Blue Heron is the largest North American heron with a wingspan of 66-79 in (167-201 cm) and a height of 45-54 (115–138 cm).

Great Blues, like many herons, were hunted to near extinction in the last century for their gorgeous blue-gray plumes. Today, they are a species of Least Concern but of special concern to us as rehabbers. Thanks for all of your support which allows us to be of service to these gentle giants. More info

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How will you help a bird today?

Photo by Jennifer Linander

March 17, 2016

Patient of the Week: Brown Pelican with severe pouch laceration

Photo of Brown Pelican with torn pouch in care at International Bird Rescue

This Brown Pelican was rescued in San Pedro with a large piece missing from its front pouch. Photo: Doug Carter

Surgery of torn Pelican pouch

Delicate surgery was required to repair torn pouch. Photo: Bill Steinkamp

It may be gull month but we, of course, have had a ton of other animals needing help come our way!

Brown Pelican “Red-111” (temporary band #) came to our Los Angeles wildlife center with an unusual and severe pouch laceration – not as large as Pink the Pelican’s tear but much more difficult to repair. A large piece of the front of the pouch was ripped off the bird’s jaw, leaving a great big hole and the pouch piece hanging like what some people mistook for a fish.

“Pelicans are good at healing mild damage to their pouches, but if they can’t eat they can’t heal,” said Dr. Rebecca Duerr, staff veterinarian,

Unfortunately, the ripped piece was dying, so Dr. Duerr had to remove it, then take a big tuck and sew the opposite side across the gap. It took about 150 stitches to sew the pouch. She is hoping the bird’s pouch will stretch with time now that it has mostly healed and he’s outside in the aviary.

In the meanwhile, he can enjoy the menu and fly around the large flight aviary.

Photo of pelican pouch surgery at International Bird Rescue

Pelican under anesthesia just before surgery to repair torn pouch. Photo: Bill Steinkamp


After surgery pelican takes flight in the 100-foot aviary at our Los Angeles center in San Pedro. Photo: Doug Carter


February 26, 2016

Patient of the Week: Canada Gosling

Our first baby bird of the season — a Canada gosling — is also our patient of the week!

Found earlier this month on the grounds of the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, CA, the gosling was then delivered to our friends at Lindsay Wildlife and, 10 days later, transferred to our San Francisco Bay center.

The gosling is growing quickly: it weighed 98g at rescue, and its weight is now 354g and climbing!

This week we received two more orphaned goslings and all the birds are sharing quarters in a duckling box at our center.

A Canada Goose typically lays a clutch of five to seven white eggs, although clutches can range from as few as two to as many as 12. Newly hatched goslings look a lot like ducklings with their yellowish gray feathers and dark bill. By nine to ten weeks, however, they have turned gray and grown their flight feathers.

We treat hundreds of goslings and ducklings each year at both our California centers. This year is starting off with a beauty!


February 16, 2016

Patient of the Week: Red-necked Grebe

An oiled Red-necked Grebe is our patient of the week. This grebe whose temporary tag was “Red-33” came into the center with oil contamination on December 18, 2015. He was stabilized, washed, then treated for foot injuries likely caused by beaching when the oil removed his waterproofing.

After nearly 2 months in care, he was returned to the wild on February 10, 2016.

Here’s the steps to recovery:


Photo of oiled Red-necked Grebe at International Bird Rescue

When this bird arrived, you could barely recognize what species he was due to the heavy contamination with oil. Every oiled bird receives a thorough examination upon intake in order to assess related injuries such as skin burns, foot and toe damage, and emaciation.

Photo of oiled Red-necked Grebe feathers at International Bird Rescue

While examining an oiled bird, Bird Rescue staff assess the extent of contamination and collect oiled feather samples for use by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Oil Spill Response and Prevention office.

Photo of oiled Red-necked Grebe toes at International Bird Rescue

Grebe feet are among the most beautiful of bird feet, with their lobed toes. They are unfortunately also among the most delicate. An oiled bird will often be forced to beach itself because its feathers no longer retain waterproofing or heat. Within a very short time, these delicate toes can become damaged by sand and rough surfaces. This damage can be nearly impossible to undo if the bird does not come into care quickly enough.

 After stabilization and wash

Photo of Red-necked Grebe in a pool at International Bird Rescue

After stabilization, the bird goes through the wash process. This photo was taken right after the wash process. The grebe is preening and bathing to get its feathers back in order, a very good sign!

 Preening is cleaning

Photo of preening Red-necked Grebe in a pool at International Bird Rescue

Preening activities immediately after the wash ensure that the bird is doing its part to maintain waterproofing.

Ready for release

Photo of Red-necked Grebe in a pool at International Bird Rescue

Success is a fully waterproof grebe with healthy feet and a little extra weight on it to ease the transition back into the wild and the renewed search for its own food! Thanks to everyone who helped this bird with direct care or a donation!!

Photos by Cheryl Reynolds


February 1, 2016

Patient of the Week: Great Egret Tangles With Octopus

After treatment a lucky Great Egret recuperates at the Los Angeles center.

After treatment for a octopus bite, a lucky Great Egret recuperates at the Los Angeles center. Photo by IBR

This is the story of a Great Egret, an octopus, and a Good Samaritan.

Earlier this week, we received a new patient—a Great Egret who had suffered significant trauma to his left leg. We have, of course, seen a lot of birds with injured legs before; but what was different about this patient was how he’d sustained his injuries.

It seems the bird had an “altercation” with an octopus in view of a man who was fishing along the shore in San Pedro, California. When the fisherman realized that the bird and the octopus were entangled in a deadly struggle, he came to the rescue to separate the combatants. Despite the aggravated octopus turning his ire to the egret’s rescuer, the fisherman was ultimately able to bring the injured egret to us at our Los Angeles center.

Fortunately, the egret is now recovering. Octopuses have a toxin in their bite, and this bird has lacerations to its thigh, hock and foot joints where this could be a factor. Initial inflammation at the wounds is decreasing and the bird is standing and eating, but is having some trouble positioning his foot without a supportive wrap. Currently we aren’t certain if this is due to the lacerations or due to neurotoxin in the octopus’ bite.

We’ll never know which animal instigated the conflict, but we have hopes this egret will make it to release and have another go at having octopus for lunch!

The leg wound oin the Great Egret was treated and then vet wrapped to help heal. Photos by IBR

The leg wound on the Great Egret was treated and then vet wrapped to help heal. Photos by IBR

January 24, 2016

Patients of the Week: Common Murres, once oiled now cleaned


Cleaned of oil, Common Murres spend time in pelagic pools before being released from our San Francisco Bay center.

This week our patients of the week are oiled Common Murres. A handful of these seabirds from the Monterey/Santa Cruz area have been rescued and transported to the San Francisco Bay Center in Fairfield.

The birds are coming with light to heavy oiling on their undersides. The petroleum source has yet to be identified.


Common Murre during intake is photographed to document oiling. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

To clean the murres, our center staff and volunteers use a combination of methyl soyate (a methyl ester derived from soybean oil), DAWN dishwashing liquid, and high pressure shower wash to remove the oil from their feathers. After spending time regaining their natural water-proofing, the healthy murres are usually released into San Francisco Bay at Fort Baker near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Common Murres are diving birds that nest on high cliffs and spend most of their lives on the open water. The public will often spot these oiled birds along beaches at the tide line. At this point these birds are cold, hungry and tired from trying to preen the oil out of their feathers.

This species is has a hard time in past years with chronic oiling along the California coast from Santa Barbara to Northern California. Also a murre stranding was documented earlier this year from the central coast to Alaska. Thousands of birds are being affected and many ended up at our center in the fall of 2015.

December 22, 2015

Patient of the Week: Lesser Scaup

Photo of Lesser Scaup

A female Lesser Scaup is our patient of the week. This scaup was brought to our Los Angeles Center by a concerned member of the public. The downed bird was found on the streets of Long Beach and the rescuer thought she looked like she was going to be attacked by crows.

Upon intake the Bird Rescue staff the noticed that the scaup appeared to be contaminated with an unknown oil-based substance. She was washed clean and is currently living in one of the rehabilitation pools.

Lesser Scaups are some of the most numerous and abundant diving ducks in North America – especially in inland waters of the western United States. In winter they are often seen on lakes and bays in dense flocks, numbering in the thousands. They are very similar to the larger Greater Scaup.

How did you help a bird today?

December 11, 2015

Patient of the Week: Red-breasted Merganser

Photo of Red-breasted Merganser

Our patient of the week is a beautiful Red-breasted Merganser in care at our Los Angeles center! Winter migrants, like this merganser, are flying south for warmer weather and that means we are seeing more of these migrants in care.

Mergansers are large diving ducks with long, thin bills that are lined with serrated edges to help them capture fish. Both male and female Red-breasted Mergansers have a distinctive double crest of plumes at the back of their heads.

This bird was rescued earlier this week by Santa Monica Animal Control. It could not fly, was weak and emaciated. In a few days it will be ready for release.

How will you help a bird today?

Photo by Bill Steinkamp


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