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 (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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!”
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.
On Tuesday, two of our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center staffers, Isabel Luevano and Cheryl Reynolds, were dispatched for a rescue effort involving two Western Gulls tangled together in fishing line. Here, Luevano recounts the successful capture of the birds with the fantastic help of the U.S. Coast Guard. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds.
Yesterday around 2:30 pm, the clinic received a phone call from Vallejo Police about two gulls that were entangled with each other by fishing line. Animal control services were unable to help the birds since they were about 20 feet out in the water. Knowing the area, [San Francisco Bay Area center staffer] Cheryl and I offered to scope out the scene. We grabbed a kennel, some towels and a net with an extension.
Before we left the clinic in Cordelia, we received word from the police that the Coast Guard was also notified since the birds were far into the water.
Once Cheryl and I arrived on the scene, I received a phone call from the Coast Guard telling me that a group of officers would be helping in the rescue. Once I saw the birds in distress, I realized that this rescue would be bigger then me, a kennel and a net.
The two birds were stranded on the low-tide mud flats of the Vallejo Marina. Behind them, we could see by their footprints just how far the birds had managed to drag themselves as they tried to get away from members of public. The area where the gulls were located looked to be about a 15-foot drop from the walkway, which at normal tide levels is completely submerged in about 10 to 15 feet of seawater.
U.S. Coast Guard to the rescue.
Trudging through the mud flats to save the entangled gulls.
At this point, we had met up with four or five Coast Guard officers suited up for action. Attempting to use wood planks to navigate the mud flats, they were sinking almost thigh-deep into the mud, and ended simply trudging through the sludge. One of the officers was then able to reach the gulls with our extended net. He secured them into the kennel and raised them up to safety.
Thankfully, the Coast Guard was able to jump into action. Without them, I would have not been able to rescue these birds without endangering myself, and the birds would not have survived once the p.m. tide came in.
Once the birds arrived to the center, we jumped into action, removing fishing line, a bobber, a weight and three treble hooks attached to a floater. Luckily, the birds were not hooked together, but tangled tightly in line: One gull’s feet were tangled and attached to the other gull’s wing. Since the birds were struggling in the exposed mud flats, they were also soaked and caked in thick, cold mud. After the line and hooks were removed and the birds were physically checked for injuries, we gave them a quick rinse-off. We then took an X-ray to make sure that all hooks were removed.
Rehab techs Suzie Kosina (background, left) and Isabel Luevano (background, right) remove fishing line and tackle from the birds with the help of volunteers Carol Lombard (foreground, left) and Margee Scannell.
Removing fishing line and tackle from the birds.
Moving forward, they now just need to heal from minor fishing line injuries and hopefully will make a quick recovery.
Fishing line pollution is something that we see on a regular basis at the clinic. It’s a frustrating problem that injures innocent birds and is completely preventable. Knowing your impact on the world is half the battle, but the more information and education we can provide, the sooner we can turn it all around and make the world a safer place for all wildlife.
Help us continue our mission to save birds harmed by human causes. Learn more about how you can help atbirdrescue.org/donate.
Photo of the rescue on the cover of Wednesday’s Vallejo Times-Herald by Mike Jory:
Photo by Cheryl Reynolds (inset photo of grebe being treated for fish hook injuries by Isabel Luevano)
A few weeks ago, we posted about a Western Grebe brought to our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife center with hook injuries in her back, leg and mouth. As you can see from the photo above, we’re happy to report this beautiful bird is doing much better!
Also, this oiled Brant Goose (left) is being treated for bilateral injuries at our Los Angeles wildlife care center, while this Red-necked Grebe (right), found injured and grounded in Penngrove, Calif., was released back to the wild Saturday.
Last week, we posted about this beautiful male Bufflehead found grounded by a storm on a San Francisco street. After treatment at our San Francisco Bay Area center, this bird is back to health and was released Monday at Berkeley Marina.
Want to learn more about North America’s smallest diving duck? Check out the Bufflehead profile on AllAboutBirds.org.
Late last week, we also released a Greater Scaup in the San Pablo Bay (photo below), one also a victim of recent storms in Northern California.
In addition to responding to oil spills around the world, International Bird Rescue staff work to care for birds impacted by lesser known threats like natural oil seeps under the ocean, algal blooms, marine debris, and extreme weather. We use this blog to share stories from the field and from the two California-based bird rescue centers we manage. We hope you enjoy this window into our world—we are truly passionate about caring for birds, and know that our community shares this passion. We could not do this important work without your ongoing support!