Every Bird Matters
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The Release Files

March 30, 2016

Release Files: A Tale of Two Pelicans

Brown Pelicans N32 and N33 about to take off after being released at White's Point.

Brown Pelicans N32 and N33 about to take off after being released at White’s Point by Dr. Rebecca Duerr.

The tale of two recent pelican patients gives you a peek in to International Bird Rescue’s rehabilitation program:

A female Brown Pelican N33 was rescued in San Pedro, CA with a large neck abscess, likely caused by a fish hook. The infection wrapped around the back of her neck, digging deep into her neck muscles. Our veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr, anesthetized her to remove all the necrotic (dead) material from the abscess, and the wound required several weeks of intensive wound management by our LA center staff.

See the before and after images (below) – warning: the ‘before’ picture is a bit graphic! But these are the sort of wounds we successfully treat every day. We are very happy to report that the wound healed beautifully, and she was ready to be released with her aviary buddy N32.

The next Brown Pelican N32 entered care June 14, 2015 after being found on the streets of Long Beach by LB Animal Control. After a full examination, we determined she was suffering from a facial neuropathy. She had little to no control over her lower eyelids, pouch or mandible muscles, showing a floppy pouch, droopy eyelids, and the inability to fully close her mouth. We knew we couldn’t release a Brown Pelican who was unable to control her mouth – to catch dinner, they have to hit the water mouth first at high speed!

The cause of the pelican’s problem remains unknown but we suspect a toxin of some kind, such as from some species of marine algae. Improvement was very slow but steady, and it took lots of time and patience until she regained the ability to control those areas of her body. After nine months in care we determined she had fully recovered and was ready to go!

Both birds were released March 14, 2016 at White’s Point in San Pedro and flew off strongly. They circled around their caregivers a few times before landing one on the reef and one on the water offshore.

Please support Bird Rescue’s rehabilitation programs. With your generous gift we can continue to treat each pelican with the medical, surgical, and nursing care it needs to have a second chance at a vibrant life in the wild. We love Pelicans!

Brown Pelican N33's nasty neck wound early in treatment.

Brown Pelican N33′s nasty neck wound early in treatment.

Brown Pelican N33's healed neck wound just before she was released.

Brown Pelican N33′s healed neck wound just before she was released.

November 6, 2015

Patient of the Week: Red-throated Loon


This lucky loon recently made an unscheduled emergency landing on a Long Beach Airport runway. The Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) is now in care at our Los Angeles Center in San Pedro.

The bird was found and captured at the busy airport on October 21, 2015. It was reported by airport workers to be dazed and confused. Upon intake the bird was given a full exam and and was found to be severely emaciated with some minor toe abrasions.

Since arrival 15 days ago, the hungry loon has gained 200 grams. Its now living full time in one our pelagic pools and eating lots of fish. This bird is very active in the pool diving a lot as well as vocalizing.

Red-throated Loons is among the smallest and lightest of loons. Its breeding plumage is more blackish-brown and includes a striking deep red throat. In non-breeding plumage (current patient), it is mainly light gray with a speckle of white.

In North America, this loon species winters along both coasts – ranging as far south as the Baja California Peninsula and the Gulf of California in northwestern Mexico. In other parts of the world, its known as the Red-throated Diver.

Photo by Jeanette Bates – International Bird Rescue


October 25, 2015

The Release Files: Common Murres

Ten more healthy Common Murres returned home this week. The seabirds were among hundreds of beached murres that have been rescued along the Northern California coast. They were released on October 23rd at Fort Baker in Sausalito, CA.

Photo Common Murres

Common Murres await release back to the wild. Photo by Elizabeth Russell

The hungry, exhausted murres – a diving seabird that looks a lot like a penguin – seem to be affected by the changing marine environment. Ocean water temperatures have risen along California and scientists believe that warmer currents associated with El Niño weather pattern may be to blame. As fish head for cooler water, the foraging birds may find a meal harder to reach.

Since July 1st a total of 468 murres have been delivered to our clinic. In October alone we’ve received 100+ new patients. Usually this time of the year we receive about 10 of this species each month. See earlier post

Bird Rescue has received seabirds from Monterey to Mendocino. The center which is located in Fairfield has deep above ground pelagic pools to allow the murres to swim, eat and gain their strength back.

Similar strandings with murres and other pelagic seabirds have been reported from Oregon to Alaska.

You can support the care of these seabirds by adopting: http://bird-rescue.org/adopt-murre

Media reports

10 birds return to San Francisco Bay after month-long rehab: ABC7-TV

Bird Rescue Center Releases Rehabilitated Seabirds: Getty Images

Biologists work to save massive number of sick sea birds: KTVU 2-TV

Along the Pacific Coast, a seabird is starving — and we don’t know why: PRI Radio


October 12, 2015

The Release Files: Masked Booby

Photo Masked Booby and Red-Footed Booby at International Bird Rescue

Masked Booby, left, stretches its wings before being released – a Red-footed Booby waits its turn. Photos by Bill Steinkamp

The wayward Masked Booby is back in the wild. It was released at White Point in San Pedro after about a week in care. The Booby was originally found in Newport, Oregon and then flown from Portland to Los Angeles after wildlife officials contacted our Southern California center.

Masked Boobies are tropical birds and its very unusual to see this species in Southern California let alone along the Oregon coast. Read earlier post: We Love Boobies!

Photos by Bill Steinkamp

Photo Masked Booby exam at International Bird Rescue

Photo Masked Booby release

Photo of Masked Booby release at White Point, San Pedro by International Bird Rescue

September 10, 2015

The Release Files: Snowy Egrets



Two Snowy Egrets were released back to the wild this week by IBR staff and volunteers at Ballona Wetlands in Playa del Rey, CA. One of the birds had a toe amputation and required extra care the other was a short term patient. Thanks to Doug Carter for the wonder photos.

Love Snowy Egrets? You can symbolically adopt one through our bird adoption program: http://bird-rescue.org/adopt-snowy-egret.aspx



August 20, 2015

The Release Files: Brown Pelican from Refugio Oil Spill

Photo of Brown Pelican release

Brown Pelican z44 was released at White Point Beach. Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Photo of Pelican exam

Kelly Berry, IBR Los Angeles Center manager, gives Z44 a final exam.

One of the last oiled Brown Pelicans rehabilitated after being rescued at the Refugio Oil Spill was released this week.

Banded with special green Z44 leg band, the Pelican was returned to the wild on Tuesday, August 18th at White Point Beach in San Pedro, CA.

Originally banded as W19, was transferred to us on July 7th covered in oil from the May 19th spill in Santa Barbara County. After washing the bird, an abscess was found on its chest that required surgery to remove.

More than 50 oiled birds – mainly Brown Pelicans – were cared for at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center located in San Pedro.

Read: Oil Spill Over, But Animal Care Continues by Kelly Berry, IBR’s Manger at the Los Angeles Center

Special green Z leg bands will help researchers track Refugio spill birds.

Special green Z leg bands will help researchers track Refugio spill birds.

IBR was activated as a proud member of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). Staff and volunteers helped rescue, treat and wash the birds clean of oil. See an earlier post

The birds were oiled in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties after an oil pipeline break spilled more than 100,000 gallons of crude at Refugio State Beach about 20 miles from the city of Santa Barbara.

A total of 252 oiled seabirds were collected. This includes 57 live oiled birds and 195 birds that were found dead. More info

Photos by Bill Steinkamp

Released Pelican join other seabirds – including Cormorants – on rocks off White

Released Pelican joins other seabirds – including Cormorants – on rocks off White Point Beach. Photo by Bill Steinkamp

July 28, 2015

The Weekly Bittern #2: COME and go HOME

Dear Friends of International Bird Rescue–

Did you see Jurassic World yet? In the film, there are four Velociraptors that are shown as fast and savage hunters. Allow me to introduce International Bird Rescue’s very Common Merganser chicks in care at SF Bay Center 7/16/15own “Velociraptors”–a set of four baby Common Mergansers that clearly demonstrated in their feeding habits how they are descended from the dinosaurs! Over the past couple of weeks, I liked watching them during feedings as they swam along the surface with their heads submerged to find the minnows below, then darted underwater to torpedo at one or a few.

According to our friends at AllAboutBirds.org by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:
Common Mergansers are streamlined ducks that float gracefully down small rivers or shallow shorelines. The males are striking with clean white bodies, dark green heads, and a slender, serrated red bill. The elegant gray-bodied females have rich, cinnamon heads with a short crest. In summer, look for them leading ducklings from eddy to eddy along streams or standing on a flat rock in the middle of the current. These large ducks nest in hollow trees; in winter they form flocks on larger bodies of water.

These orphans arrived from San Jose and Sonoma in May and spent the last 2-1/2 months in the capable care of our SF Bay Wildlife Center in Fairfield. I am happy to announce that all four were released at the American River in Sacramento last Friday. We were happy to be able to stablize these orphans and raise them to strong sub-adults that were able to be successfully released to their new home.

Common Mergansers are abbreviated as “COME” using the first two letters of each word, hence the title of this post. You can support Mergansers and other interesting diving ducks with a donation at www.bird-rescue.org/donate.

We love to hear from you, so please get in touch with your questions about Common Mergansers. We’ll post our replies on our Facebook page.

Be well,





JD Bergeron
Executive Director

Video credit: Jen Linander
Photo credit: Cheryl Reynolds

July 16, 2015

The Weekly Bittern

Dear supporters of International Bird Rescue,

Pelican Release in San Pedro, CA.

Pelican Release in San Pedro, CA.

Tuesday marked the end of my first week as Executive Director, and what a week it has been!

For my first few days, I had the privilege of being among the incredibly capable team at our southern facility, the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care Center. Led by Operations Manager Julie Skoglund and Center Manager Kelly Berry, the team worked tirelessly to welcome Ian Somerhalder and our partners from Dawn dish detergent as we joined forces to celebrate our many superb volunteers, without whom none of this work with injured and orphaned birds would be possible. Thank you, IBR Volunteers and Interns, for your dedication! Please stop by and say hi when you get a chance. I’d like to meet each of you.

Two orphaned Pied-Billed Grebes are fed every half-hour and cuddle with a feather duster

Two orphaned Pied-Billed Grebes are fed every half-hour and cuddle with a feather duster.

The culmination of the event was the release of three Brown Pelicans and a Western Gull that had finished their rehabilitation and were ready for their return to the wild. I can say firsthand that this is a deeply moving experience, especially as I was given the honor of opening one of the cages. I released the Brown Pelican at the far right of the photo, who I have nicknamed N-20 for the blue band which will be used to track her progress in the future. We invite you to participate by using our citizen scientist reporting tool to document sightings of any blue banded pelican. This information is vital to our ongoing research. I’ll personally be watching closely for news of N-20, N-18, and X-01!

Over the weekend, I was able to meet the equally amazing team of our northern facility, International Bird Rescue – San Francisco Bay. Led by Center Manager Michelle Bellizzi, the northern center is currently working on a massive number of orphaned baby birds, including Green Heron, Snowy Egrets, Black-crowned Night Heron, Pied-Billed Grebes, Western Gulls, Pelagic Cormorants, Brandt’s Cormorants, Common Mergansers, and Mallards.

At both facilities, I have also had the privilege of watching our very talented Veterinarian and Research Director, Rebecca Duerr DVM MPVM PhD, as she administered pelicans, gulls, egrets, and more.

On Wednesday morning at Fort Baker, we also released a Double-Crested Cormorant and another Brown Pelican, the latter of which had been in our care for a full year after devastating damage to her wing and feathers. I’ll share more info on this bird, blue band X-01, next week.

Barbara Callahan, Director of Response Services and Interim Director for the last year, and JD Bergeron, incoming Executive Director.

Barbara Callahan, Director of Response Services and Interim Director for the last year, and JD Bergeron, incoming Executive Director.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not send out special thanks to IBR’s Response Services Director, Barbara Callahan, who has served as Interim Director for the past year. Barbara has led the team through a challenging year and has been gracious and generous with her time and knowledge. She is now taking  much-needed rest. Thank you, Barbara!

There are many ways to support IBR:

adopt a bird

become a recurring donor

join as a Pelican Partner


Please also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flicker, and YouTube

I love to hear from you so please get in touch!

Be well,





JD Bergeron
Executive Director


June 29, 2015

The Release Files: Black Rail


A Black Rail is back again where it belongs – hiding in nature.

Staff from our San Francisco Bay Center released the hatchling year Black Rail after came to us via WildCare after being rescued in Novato. It arrived on May 25, 2015 weighing 11 grams. It found with a small wound on its left elbow.

It more than doubled its weight to 24 grams before being released on June 26th at Black Point in Novato, CA.

Black Rails are super secretive as it walks or runs through shallow salt and freshwater marshes. It is rarely seen in flight. It’s the smallest of all Rails.

Watch the short release video  > >

June 27, 2015

The Release Files: Clean Western Grebe from Refugio Oil Spill


The Western Grebe was released by Kelly Berry of IBR at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, CA. Photos by Jo Joseph

The Western Grebe was released by Kelly Berry of IBR at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro, CA. Photos by Jo Joseph

On Friday our team in Southern California released a rehabilitated Western Grebe from the Refugio Oil Spill. This is the first non-Pelican affected by the spill to be released.

The heavily oiled Grebe was collected on May 22, 2015 from the drainage ditch east of of Venadito Creek in Santa Barbara County.

After being washed and recovering from various secondary injuries at our Los Angeles Center, it was released late this week at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro.

More than 50 oiled seabirds – mainly Brown Pelicans – have come to the center rescued in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. The birds were oiled at May 19th Refugio oil pipeline break that spilled more than 100,000 gallons of crude.

6-24-Refugio_Data_By_Species_For_WebsiteAs a member of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) the center near the Los Angeles Harbor has been ground zero for this oiled seabird response. International Bird Rescue staff and volunteers, along with other OWCN members, have worked tirelessly to help care for the effected birds.

A total of 252 seabirds have been collected. 57 live oiled birds and 195 birds were found dead. Complete list: http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/owcn/

June 13, 2015

First Brown Pelicans Released At Goleta Beach Following Refugio Oil Spill


Dear Bird Rescue Supporter,

There’s nothing quite like a bird release to stir your soul.

Photo of released Brown Pelicans Goleta, CA

Brown Pelicans released at Goleta Beach head back to the wild. Photo by Valerie Kushnerov, City of Goleta

On Friday we happily helped release the first 10 clean, rehabilitated Pelicans back to the wild at Goleta Beach. All of these majestic seabirds were oiled in the May 19th Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara.

Satellite tracking device between the Pelican's wings.  Photo: Justin Cox, UC Davis

Satellite tracking device between the Pelican’s wings. Photo: Justin Cox, UC Davis

The awe inspiring sight of these Brown Pelicans returning home gave us all renewed hope that humans can and will work to help heal oiled wildlife. More than 50 oiled birds have come to the San Pedro center – mainly Pelicans rescued in the Pacific Ocean from Refugio south to Ventura County.

As a proud member of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) the center near the Los Angeles Harbor was at ground zero for this oiled seabird response. International Bird Rescue staff and volunteers, along with other OWCN members, worked tirelessly to help care for the effected birds.

As part of the research aspect of the spill response, five Pelicans were outfitted with solar-powered satellite tracking devices. This will help OWCN scientists track and study the rescued birds.

As always, we appreciate all the kind words and notes of encouragement for our role in helping to make sure “Every Bird Matters”.


Barbara Signature



Barbara Callahan
Interim Executive Director
International Bird Rescue

Photo of special green Z banded released Brown Pelican from Refugio Oil Spill

P.S. – If you spot a banded Brown Pelican with a special “Z” leg numbered band, please report it to the OWCN tip line: 1-877-UCD-OWCN.


April 15, 2015

Last Mystery Goo Bird Released Back To The Wild

Russ Curtis of International Bird Rescue releases a male Surf Scoter, the last Mystery Goo  Response bird back to the wild in Sausalito on Wednesday. Photo courtesy Soren Hemmila, Marinscope Newspapers

The last Mystery Goo bird in care – a male Surf Scoter – was released Wednesday back to the wild.

The seaduck’s freedom represents the end of three long months of rehabilitation that included hundreds of birds that were contaminated in San Francisco Bay by a yet to be fully identified substance that coated birds with a sticky substance back in mid-January.

Male Surf Scoter was the last Mystery Goo released. Photo by Cheryl Reynodlss

Number: 165: A Male Surf Scoter was the last Mystery Goo bird released. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

“We are so happy to see the final clean, healthy seabird returned to the wild,” said Barbara Callahan, Interim Executive Director of International Bird Rescue (IBR). “We are also extremely grateful for the public’s support – including the generous donations that helped us fund this expensive response.”

The mystery goo impacted over 500 hundred aquatic birds – 323 were brought into care at IBR’s San Francisco Bay Center in Fairfield and 165 of those have now been RELEASED! The remaining birds were in such poor condition they could not be saved. At least 170 dead bird carcasses were picked up during January by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) personnel.

The goo covered the feathers of seabirds, destroying their ability to stay warm, but no mystery goo was found to be on the beach or in the water, which deepened the mystery.

No responsible party has yet to be identified and the cost of all the bird care has fallen to IBR who has relied on the help of the public and foundations for donations. Bird Rescue has spent nearly $150,000 on this unusual contaminant response. Donate here

Many of these rescued birds also came to the center with pressure sores on their hocks or toes from being stranded on hard land. These injures can take months of care and healing. Other patients had surgeries for keel injuries but most of those healed quickly.

On February 12, state and federal labs concluded that the substance that coated birds includes a mixture of non-petroleum-based fats or oils. See the press release from CAFW: http://ow.ly/J4bZp

This week a bill moved through the first round of committees that would open a state oil spill response fund to help pay for non-petroleum responses involving wildlife. See info on the bill proposed by California State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco)

Surf Scoter released back to the wild by Russ Curtis of International Bird Rescue in Sausalito. Photo courtesy Soren Hemmila, Marinscope Newspapers


April 3, 2015

The Release Files: Two Laysan Albatross Back To The Wild!

Albatross-IMG_0779-Double-Release-webTwo Laysan Albatross, rare birds indeed for Southern California, are back in the wild this week after a successful release Thursday afternoon.

Usually, we see one a year, but to have two at the same time is pretty incredible,” said Julie Skoglund, Operations Manager at International Bird Rescue (IBR), quoted in a Daily Breeze newspaper story. Read more


Two Laysan Albatross in the pool at IBR’s Los Angeles Center before release (above) off the San Pedro, CA coastline. Photos by Bill Steinkamp

The two wayward seabirds came into IBR’s Los Angeles Center late last month. One Laysan Albatross was rescued from a container ship and the other was found sitting in the desert. Read earlier blog post: Two Rare Albatross Ready For Release After Unusual SoCal Landings

Thanks to the Los Angeles County Lifeguards who shuttled the seabirds via boat ride to a release point off the San Pedro coastline.

IBR relies on the support of the public to care for wildlife, including wayward birds blown off course, those injured in cruelty incidents, as well as those harmed by fishing gear and other human-caused injuries.

Every Bird Matters and so does your donation!

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 26, 2015

Honoring school kids fundraising efforts with a bird release

Pelicans-Released-Alameda-PDS“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way…” 
~Greatest Love Of All song written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed

On a beautifully clear Thursday morning we honored a special group of caring third graders from Park Day School in Oakland. We inviting them to a bird release to celebrate their fundraising prowess after they collected $603.30 for the Mystery Goo seabird response.

Thank you PDS kids and their teachers Renee Miller, Mona Halaby, and Jeanine Harmon!

All photos by Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue


Among the birds released: Four Brown Pelicans at Encinal Beach in Alameda.

"Park Day School bird release 2/16/15 at Encinal Beach Alameda"

Park Day School students present ceremonial $603.30 check from fundraising efforts for mystery goo birds.

"Park Day School bird release 2/16/15 at Encinal Beach Alameda"