Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Success Stories

June 9, 2014

Black Rail, banded and released

Photo by Isabel Luevano

An elusive bird that hides in thick marsh vegetation, the Black Rail is listed as a near-threatened species (and formally listed as a threatened species by the State of California).BLRA

The rail’s wetland habitat, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes, “is threatened by pollution, drought, wildfires, groundwater removal, changing water levels, grazing and agricultural expansion.”

This spring, our San Francisco Bay center cared for a baby Black Rail, a victim of cat predation that suffered a broken mandible. Researchers with the Black Rail Project at the University of California-Berkeley banded the bird once its injuries had healed and it was old enough to be released.

We’re happy to report this bird was released at Petaluma Marsh, where it was originally found!

June 4, 2014

Release! Pink the Pelican

L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino releases Pink. Photos and video by Bill Steinkamp and Kira Perov (volume adjustment on lower right of video control panel)

Pink, a California Brown Pelican and now arguably one of the most famous patients in International Bird Rescue history, was successfully released on Tuesday afternoon at White Point Park in San Pedro, CA, by L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, assisted by a lovely young girl excited to see the bird off on its next adventures.

As you may have read, less than seven weeks ago this animal was brought to our Los Angeles center with its throat pouch nearly severed off its bill. A human-caused injury, the incident sparked outrage among animal lovers in Southern California and beyond. A $20,000 reward is still being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this illegal act. Tips may be made anonymous to US Fish and Wildlife Service at 310-328-1516.

Thank you to everyone who helped support the care of this bird, including the Port of Long Beach, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, Terranea Resort and countless bird lovers in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the country.

After two surgeries and weeks in care, this pelican made a record recovery and was very eager for release from our large pelican aviary. As part of our Blue-Banded Pelican Program, we banded Pink with a blue band reading V70. If you see Pink out along the Pacific Coast, you can report your sighting here.

Releases are always powerful experiences that cut through the madness of modern life. International Bird Rescue’s “Every Bird Matters” mantra was definitely the theme of the day. Photographer Bill Steinkamp was on hand to take some wonderful photos of the event. Enjoy!



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May 31, 2014

Pink the Pelican scheduled for release

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Photos by Bill Steinkamp

Good news!

“Pink,” a California Brown Pelican who made national headlines after being found with a near-severed throat pouch caused by an unknown assailant, has made a truly remarkable recovery at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center and is scheduled for a June 3 release. Here’s the scheduled release information for this public event:

When: Tuesday, June 3 at 12:30 P.M.

Where: White Point Park in San Pedro CA. Address: Kay Fiorentino Drive, San Pedro, CA 90731 (see map below).

Nicknamed for the color of the bird’s temporary leg band worn while in care at IBR, Pink was found with a mutilated pouch over six weeks ago by Long Beach Animal Control officers. Unable to feed, the bird was extremely thin, anemic and could not fly when brought to IBR.

“Despite the vicious attack against this pelican, Pink brought out the best in wildlife lovers all over the country, who supported and rallied behind the bird’s care and recovery,” said IBR executive director Jay Holcomb. “Though we still don’t know who committed this criminal act, we’re thrilled to release a strong and healthy Pink, one of hundreds of pelicans we care for every year.”

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Pink the Pelican, prior to surgery to repair a slashed pouch

During the past year, pelican pouch slashings perpetrated by humans have been seen in California, Florida and North Carolina. Pink’s pouch laceration required hundreds of stitches during two operations lasting a total of six hours.

“Over the course of treatment, I’ve seen Pink transform from weak and sad to feisty and voracious,” said IBR staff veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr, who has performed nearly 100 pelican pouch surgeries in her career. “Despite having the largest pouch laceration I’ve ever seen, he did great during post-operative care and has healed in record time.”

IBR is extremely grateful for support from the Port of Long Beach for Pink, whose care was also aided by donations from the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, Terranea Resort and bird lovers in Southern California and beyond. The Animal Legal Defense Fund assisted IBR with communicating this animal cruelty story to the public.


Pink’s recovery was made possible by IBR animal care staff, who performed regular exams on the bird and provided extensive rehabilitative and supportive care.


May 28, 2014

Rehabilitated Snowy Egrets settle into San Francisco Bay

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Photos by Cindy Margulis

Golden Gate Audubon Society executive director Cindy Margulis recently sent us these photos of a Snowy Egret with a red leg band (and several hungry babies) at the Alameda Bay Farm Colony in the San Francisco Bay Area. The band indicates that this bird was a former patient of our San Francisco Bay center in Fairfield, CA.

Margulis notes that she has seen as many as four red-banded egrets at this location thus far in 2014 — birds that likely were released at the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park, about two miles away.

“They learned the location, most likely, from following the foraging adult Snowy Egrets in the MLK marsh, once they were released,” Margulis says. “Then, after surviving to reach breeding age, they knew just where to start their own families!”

It’s always a thrill to see the birds we care for become a part of the breeding population. Thanks for sending, Cindy!

Meanwhile, our San Francisco Bay center currently is caring for 16 Snowy Egrets. Check out the species in our care here.


March 6, 2014

Release! Brown Booby

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Photos and video by Bill SteinkampBRBO

It’s been a long, strange trip for this wayward Brown Booby. But we’re pleased to report there’s a happy ending.

To bring you up to speed: In December, we received this female Brown Booby at our San Francisco Bay center from our friends at WildCare, which in turn had received it from local sculptor Patricia Vader, who came across the injured bird at Point Reyes on the Pacific Coast. Upon intake, we found her to be extremely thin and suffering from foot injuries that later required surgery.

After several weeks in the aviary, we transferred the booby south to our Los Angeles center, much closer to a Brown Booby’s typical range. With the help of L.A. City Lifeguards, our center manager, Erica Lander, released the booby off the coast. Resident photographer Bill Steinkamp took this great video of the day’s events.

Professional care of birds like this booby is made possible by you. Thanks for your support.

February 5, 2014

Release! Common Loon

Release photos by Cheryl Patterson; inset photo by Kelly Berry

One of our most recent patients of the week is this Common Loon, which we’re pleased to report is the Los Angeles center’s first loon release of 2014.

The backstory: This loon was found in late December, having crash-landed on Ventura Blvd in Studio City, CA. The animal was brought to California Wildlife Center, where it was hydrated and stabilized before transfer to our aquatic bird specialists.

After several weeks in care, this beautiful loon was released back to the ocean — much more suitable habitat than Ventura Boulevard!


January 4, 2014

Release! Ruddy Ducks and a Brandt’s Cormorant

Photos by Paul Berry

Among the recent releases by our Los Angeles team: this Ruddy Duck duo as well as a Brandt’s Cormorant, released past the breakwater at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, CA.

Both of these ducks were found “crash-landed” in Los Angeles — one in the Los Feliz neighborhood, the other in Hollywood. Both animals were also placed on antibiotics for toe lesions suffered from being out of the water, and were released when their wounds had healed and they were deemed healthy.


The Brant’s Cormorant shown below came to us from Santa Barbara, where it had been found about 40% oiled and with a thin body condition, rehabilitation technician Kelly Berry reports. The bird was washed a day following intake, and after several weeks of fattening up and healing required for a small wound, we released the cormorant off Cabrillo Beach.




January 2, 2014

A Red-tailed Hawk readies for reunion with mate

Photos by Angela Woodside

RTHAIn 2013, both our wildlife centers in California cared for a number of raptors that were either oiled or affected by other substances, such as glue trap material. Though International Bird Rescue primarily cares for aquatic birds, there are times when other animals that fall outside of our usual spectrum of species need our help — including birds of prey.

This beautiful Red-tailed Hawk is an adult female believed to be part of a breeding pair, and was found at Lake Casitas, near Ojai, CA. Following her wash, the hawk was transferred to a partner wildlife organization before being transported to the Ojai Raptor Center, where she is currently living in an outdoor flight aviary.

Update: This hawk was recently released back at the location where she was found. We’re hopeful she will rejoin her mate.

Thank you to Angela Woodside for taking these images of the hawk during the wash process in December.







November 8, 2013

Burrowing Owl, banded in Bay Area, spotted in Idaho

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

Burrowing Owl Family in Antioch, CA, 2009. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds/Wikimedia Commons

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