Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Success Stories

November 6, 2013

Release! Elegant Tern recuperates after gunshot injury

Release day for Elegant Tern 13-2408 at SF Bay Center

We’re happy to report that this Elegant Tern covered recently on the blog has been successfully rehabilitated at our San Francisco Bay center. We released the bird Tuesday afternoon in the East Bay near the location of several recent Elegant Tern sightings via eBird.

Check out the release video below. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds.


September 23, 2013

Great Blue Heron released at Ballona Wetlands

A Great Blue Heron leaping to freedom when released at Ballona Creek, photo by Kylie Clatterbuck

If you love Great Blue Herons, we know you’ll fully appreciate the resiliency of one amazing bird recently in our care.

A few months ago, International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center received a heron with dual misfortunes: It was both oiled and suffering from GHBEsubsequent burns on about 25% of its body.

Our wildlife rehab technician team washed the animal, and our veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, surgically repaired the bird’s most severe injury where the skin along its spine was dead and adhered to the spine itself. Surgical procedures were also necessary to heal a wound on the bird’s keel as well as a thigh wound that required debridement to remove dead muscle tissue and a skin graft.

After many weeks of healing, this heron was released at the Ballona Wetlands in Los Angeles, home to a wide array of birds, including egrets, grebes and many species of shorebirds. Rehabilitation technician Kylie Clatterbuck reports that the bird was released at a spot in the wetlands where there was another Great Blue Heron nearby, as well as a Great Egret.

Below, you can see this heron in its new habitat, as well as a photo of the bird upon its initial exam at our Los Angeles center.

Heron release photo by Kylie Clatterbuck; inset photo by Paul Berry

July 6, 2013

Weekend snapshot: Green Heron

Photo by Michelle Bellizzi

A Green Heron from International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center, released on the Fourth of July!

July 4, 2013

Duckling Independence Day!


A very Happy Fourth of July to all our bird blog readers!

As you get ready for BBQs and fireworks displays today, we wanted to share a heartwarming story from our Los Angeles wildlife care center team:

Photo by Jennifer Gummerman

This mother duck arrived on Monday at our L.A. center with her 10 baby ducklings. Earlier, they had been found in a residential area, where one of the ducklings had fallen into a storm drain. Thanks to an animal control officer, the duckling was saved, and the animals were transferred out of this urban area and to our center. Mama duck had very minor wounds to her wrists and her babies were all in good condition, volunteer coordinator and wildlife rehabilitation technician Neil Uelman says. She was placed in this enclosure with her babies to await release.

But there’s another wrinkle to this story: As you can see in the photo above, this duck has a metal federal band. And it was our band! Uelman reports:

The mallard mom was brought to us back on June 2, 2012 for being stuck in an apartment complex with her seven baby ducklings. It was also the same animal control officer that caught her up and brought the duck in with her ducklings that time. I was actually the one to receive this bird at the clinic and to do the intake on the bird that day. She as well as her baby ducklings were all in good condition. We kept her for two days, and then I did the release of her at a nice spot in El Dorado Nature Center.

In the video below, mama duck with this season’s clutch are released at Madrona Marsh Preserve in Torrance. Madrona is the last remaining vernal marsh in Los Angeles County.

Mallard Duckling at SF Bay Center

June 28, 2013

Great Blue Herons, now and then…

Great Blue Heron 13-1701 from SF Bay Center release.
Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

This week, both of our California centers have cared for several Great Blue Herons, the largest and most majestic of the heron species we see at International Bird Rescue. The heron you see above is one of our more recent patients and was successfully released just a few days ago at Suisun Marsh, not far from our San Francisco Bay center.

In rehabilitation, Great Blue Herons are easily stressed and dangerous to handle. Their powerful beaks can literally kill a human, and their bones are fragile in a captive environment, where these birds might crash into a wall or branch if spooked. Nevertheless, Great Blue Herons are a privilege to care for, and we want to share a story of one of these amazing birds that came to us twice with a similar problem.

From the archives:

On July 23, 1996, a Great Blue Heron, tangled in fishing line with fishing hooks embedded in its wing, was GB_Heron_second_time-2008captured and brought to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, Calif. The young hatching bird was stabilized and treated for puncture wounds from hooks, and abrasions from line entanglement.

The following day, this heron was brought to International Bird Rescue’s old aquatic bird rehabilitation facility in Berkeley. The bird was put on a regimen of antibiotics and treated for its wounds. Its recovery was quick: On July 29, the bird was banded with a small metal federal leg band (#0977-04747) and released in the Suisun Marsh.

Twelve years later, on May 28, 2008, the same Great Blue Heron, now an adult but still wearing band number #0977-04747, was again found entangled in fishing line and fish hooks and was captured at a marina in Oakley, Calif. The bird was brought to Lindsay Wildlife Museum, which again did an excellent job of stabilizing it and removing the fish hooks and line that were tangled around the heron’s wing and leg.

This heron was then transferred to International Bird Rescue’s new facility in Fairfield, Calif. As before, it was treated for its wounds, held for a week or so, and on June 5, 2008, the bird was released healthy and strong back into the Suisun Marsh.

California has a number of prestigious wildlife rehabilitation organizations open 365 days a year to provide shelter and state-of-the-art care for sick and injured native wildlife. Lindsay Wildlife Museum and International Bird Rescue are two of those organizations and are both leaders in the unique field of wildlife rehabilitation. We have worked in tandem for years to provide the best care for local wildlife.

While International Bird Rescue specializes in aquatic bird rehabilitation, Lindsay Wildlife Museum specializes in many other species of native wildlife, including raptors, passerines, terrestrial mammals and reptiles. When we receive an owl or the occasional mammal for care, our team sends these animals to Lindsay for rehabilitation. In turn, they send us the aquatic birds that can benefit from our program and specialized facility.

Together, we have helped hundreds of animals by cooperating with each other and putting the needs of the animals first. Great Blue Heron #0977-04747 is a testament to this important relationship and the dedication of these two organizations.

Further reading:

Lindsay Wildlife Museum

June 26, 2013

The Release Files: a tern and a heron fly again!

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Tern photos by Bill Steinkamp

At last count, our wildlife centers are caring for well over 200 birds, from Pied-billed Grebes to a young American Avocet now learning to master catching live feeder fish. Here are two beautiful releases our staff and volunteers photographed earlier this week.

According to Audubon, Elegant Terns were historically only seasonal visitors to California until they were first discovered to be nesting on the West Coast of the U.S. in 1959 (on the beaches of San Diego, to be exact). Readers of this blog may remember a tragic event a few years back involving nesting Elegant and Caspian Terns that were hosed off a barge not far from our Los Angeles center in the San Pedro neighborhood. Young birds that survived the incident were cared for by our team.

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This Elegant Tern was found unable to fly by a member of the public at the Port of Los Angeles’ Pier 400. Upon its June 14 intake, the bird was emaciated and very dehydrated, and had feces covering its feathers. Staff rehabilitation technician and volunteer coordinator Neil Uelman reports that the bird underwent a wash to remove the contamination in addition to much-needed fluid therapy and plenty of food. Here, volunteer photographer Bill Steinkamp photographs the tern’s release.

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Up north at our San Francisco Bay center in Fairfield, this majestic Great Blue Heron shown below returned to the wild at Suisun Marsh. Last week, the bird was picked up by animal control officers at a Concord office, where it was found in a courtyard slamming against windows. The heron was easily captured and later released at Suisun, the largest brackish marsh on the West Coast. Volunteer coordinator Cheryl Reynolds took these photos of the heron upon release.

Heron photos by Cheryl Reynolds

Great Blue Heron 13-1701 from SF Bay Center release.

Great Blue Heron 13-1701 from SF Bay Center release.

Great Blue Heron 13-1701 from SF Bay Center release.

Bird by bird, our wildlife rehabilitation professionals care for animals in need, 365 days a year. Join us today and be a part of our “Every Bird Matters” team.

Mallard Duckling at SF Bay Center

June 14, 2013

5 great photos from the Santa Rosa heron and egret release

Photo by Andreas Christensen via The Bird Rescue Center

Thanks to everyone who attended Thursday’s heron and egret release at Laguna de Santa Rosa! Here’s some great shots of the release from three different lenses.

Via Sean Scully of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

For Isabel Luevano, rehabilitating lost and injured baby birds is a small way of making up for the effects humans have on the earth.

“Even though people do so much harm to nature and wildlife and the ecosystem in general, it’s a really good feeling to know you’re helping a part of it, doing better things rather than worse things,” said Luevano, a rehabilitation technician for International Bird Rescue, after releasing a flock of juvenile birds into the wild at the Laguna de Santa Rosa on Wednesday.

All but one of the 22 birds, a mix of snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons, were born in one of Santa Rosa’s more peculiar natural features: a nesting site for hundreds of egrets and herons in two huge trees in the median along West Ninth Street, in the midst of one of the city’s most densely populated areas. [Read the full story here.]

Photo by Isabel Luevano

Photo by Andreas Christensen

bildePhoto by Beth Schlanker, Press Democrat

Photo by Isabel Luevano (note the red band on this egret)

Special thanks to the Sonoma County Fish & Wildlife Commission for supporting these birds through a generous $5,000 grant that helps cover the cost of their rehabilitative care. We couldn’t do it without them!


May 8, 2013

Released! Red-breasted Merganser

Red-Breasted Merganzer at SFB Center
Photo by Cheryl Reynolds


Photo by Michelle Bellizzi

This male Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) was recently sent to us from a rehabilitation group in Arizona that was unfamiliar with the species and lacked appropriate water caging. “The bird was found to have a fractured clavicle, a wound on its wing and foot lesions,” says Michelle Bellizzi, center manager of International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center. “The foot lesions were likely the result of captivity. It was the fractured clavicle and wing injury that brought it into care.” After several weeks of rehabilitation at our center, this bird was released nearby.

The Red-breasted Merganser is one of three species of mergansers in North America. Known for their thin, serrated bills to catch fish prey, Red-breasted Mergansers are “bold world traveler[s], plying icy waters where usually only scoters and eiders dare to tread,” 10,000 Birds notes. “While all mergansers are swift fliers, the Red-breast holds the avian record for fastest level-flight at 100 mph.”

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A close-up of the Red-breasted Merganser’s serrated, “toothy” bill. Photo by Dr. Rebecca Duerr.

Below, the merganser is released back into the wild.

Photo by Nicole Maclennan

April 22, 2013

Pelican release at Terranea Resort, Earth Day weekend 2013

During this past winter, a number of California Brown Pelicans were reported to have traveled well north of their usual habitat – British Columbia, to be exact.

Several of these birds settled in Victoria’s inner harbour, and three were found to have parasites, frostbite, and in the case of one pelican, wounds that may have been from fishing hook injuries.

After weeks of planning and the securing of appropriate permits, the birds were flown south via commercial jet cargo to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife care center, which is equipped with the large aviaries necessary to successfully treat aquatic birds of this size. These pelicans were released at Terranea Resort in nearby Rancho Palos Verdes on April 20, 2013.

Photos and video by Bill Steinkamp. Music by Wired Ant. View the full-size video here.


Find out how you can get involved with pelicans through our Pelican Partner program.

April 21, 2013

Wrapped in cuteness: Barn Owl hatchling

This Barn Owl hatchling made its debut this week at International Bird Rescue!

On April 11, two Barn Owl eggs were delivered to International Bird Rescue from the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek. Both eggs were placed in IBR’s state-of-the-art egg incubator. And then … we waited.

On the afternoon of April 18, one of the eggs had begun pipping as the tiny chick inside started to peck its way out of its shell. By the time staff had arrived the following morning, a check on things in the incubator revealed that this little bird had completely broken through and had hatched.

International Bird Rescue often partners with other local wildlife rehabilitators like the Lindsay Wildlife Museum. In this case, we were able to help by providing the special incubator and optimum environment for this egg to hatch. Working collaboratively with other centers ensures that we are all able to provide the highest and most comprehensive care to the animals that need it.

While this baby owl has now been transferred back to the raptor experts at Lindsay Wildlife Museum for care and feeding, many other orphaned and injured baby birds continue to arrive at our wildlife centers. Through the generosity and caring of our donors, these little chicks receive a warm and cozy enclosure and regular feeding and care until they are able to fend for themselves in the wild. We are very grateful for your support.


IBR-Barn Owl Hatchling

April 17, 2013

The Release Files: Great Egret

This Great Egret (Ardea alba) was treated for multiple wing fracture and a leg wound in spring 2013. Here, Los Angeles center manager Julie Skoglund releases the bird. Video by Dr. Rebecca Duerr.

GREG release

April 16, 2013

In Malibu, a gorgeous murre release


In these trying times, an image of simple compassion and care can have a profound effect on the viewer. Here’s one that recently moved us:

This past weekend, International Bird Rescue rehabilitation technician Kelly Berry released five Common Murres at the Malibu Pier. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that our Los Angeles center received a heavy influx of oiled seabirds earlier this year, mostly Common Murres that were found beached along the Southern California coast.

Our favorite detail of this release: “Once all of the birds were in the ocean, they jointly made the signature Murre call and headed out to the open ocean,” Berry reports. “This photo was their last look at the shore.”

Thanks to Kelly’s husband, Paul, for taking such a memorable shot.


See more on the murre influx from winter 2013 here.

March 21, 2013

The Release Files: This Common Loon is anything but “common”


East Bay Regional Park District supervising naturalist and KQED QUEST contributor Sharol Nelson-Embry recently wrote a blog post on this Common Loon, found wrapped in fishing line by park visitor Martha Ashton-Sikora. Upon transfer to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center, X-rays later showed this bird had also swallowed a hook (both are common predicaments we see in our bird patients).

Fellow park district supervising naturalist James Frank recently sent us these photos of the loon’s release at Crown Memorial State Beach. Above, Ashton-Sikora, IBR volunteer Dawn Furseth and Trevor, a staffer with East Bay Regional Park District, give the loon a great send-off. Thanks, team!


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March 19, 2013

Once oiled, these Common Murres return to their ocean home

As you may have read recently on this blog, our Los Angeles center has had a busy season with oiled Common Murres — medium-sized seabirds that nest on rocky cliffs. Natural oil seepage off the Santa Barbara coast is to blame; because these oiled birds are affected by natural causes rather than a human-caused oil spill, the high cost of rehabilitating these animals falls largely on IBR and other area wildlife groups.

We’re pleased to report that we’ve rehabilitated many of these birds and have begun releasing them back to the wild.

Last week, volunteer photographer/videographer Bill Steinkamp filmed evaluations and releases of three such Common Murres. Here, staff rehab technician Kylie Clatterbuck and intern Andrea Murrieta check waterproofing and band a murre ready for release.


February 1, 2013

Remember this duo? Fishing line-entangled gulls successfully treated and released

Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

A few weeks ago, we wrote about two juvenile Western Gulls who were saved thanks to the fast action of the Vallejo Police, the U.S. Coast Guard and International Bird Rescue staff. The gulls were spotted at the Vallejo Marina entangled together in fishing line, mired in mud and facing a rising tide that would have drowned them.

One of the birds had a severely swollen wing and a foot injury requiring surgery. As both birds were caked in mud upon intake, they received warm baths, pain medication, antibiotics and lots of fish.


The free fish and caring treatments didn’t endear them to staff and volunteers, however. “It was apparent that once they started to feel better, not only didn’t they like each other, but also they didn’t like being around us, fish or no fish,” said Michelle Bellizzi, rehabilitation manager at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Area center in Cordelia. “They didn’t even look back when they were released!”


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The gull with lesser complications was released last week, while the other that had undergone surgery was released earlier this week at Ft. Baker.

Special thanks to the Coast Guard and Mike Jory of the Vallejo Times-Herald for documenting their rescue and bringing front-page attention to the misery that fishing tackle can cause birds and other marine animals.