Every Bird Matters
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June 15, 2018

Summer “Drill Season” In High Gear

 

Founded in the wake of one of the most significant spills in California history, International Bird Rescue has been an integral part of global oil spill response for the past 47 years. To-date we’ve responded to over 225 oiled wildlife responses throughout the world. Spill response preparedness has remained a core mission of Bird Rescue since our inception. While emergencies may not arise every day, being prepared for them is a huge part of the work that goes into any sort of emergency response work, including oil spills.

To optimally prepare for an oil spill emergency, trustees, emergency responders, oil producers, and shippers all get together periodically to review their response plans and execute drill exercises. During drills, spill personnel and equipment is put to the test by “responding” to hypothetical spill scenarios just as they would in the event of an actual spill. The summer and spring months are a very busy time of year for these events, and we are often invited to participate in multiple drills throughout the season.

International Bird Rescue strongly supports these drill exercises and is happy to provide a voice for wildlife amongst all of the other players at the table in these large-scale operations. We use these opportunities to learn, network, and educate other emergency response participants about the wildlife operations that occur during a spill.

In May, Board Member Ron Morris participated in a tabletop drill in Washington State.  The spill scenario occurred in the waters of Puget Sound, and Ron acted as the Deputy Wildlife Branch Director. As the former Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) for Spill Responses with the U.S. Coast Guard, Ron is well acquainted with processes of responding to a large-scale spill. When asked why he supports these collaborative drills, Ron spoke to what an excellent opportunity these drills are for working with and meeting fellow responders and gaining experience in new skillsets. “You don’t fail these things.” Ron proclaimed, “They are always an opportunity to learn.”

To learn more about our work in oil spill response, see our website.

 

June 3, 2018

2017 Annual Report On The Way

Keep your eyes peeled for Bird Rescue’s 2017 Annual Report! You’ll have an opportunity to read about the most influential recent events, track our financials, read about the work of our wonderful staff and volunteers, and learn more about our vision for the future of Bird Rescue. The report will be published soon on our website and elsewhere, available to everyone.  Announcements about the expected release date to come.

Every year since our inception in 1971, International Bird Rescue has worked nonstop to remain on the cutting edge of oiled wildlife rehab and recovery. Because we specialize in aquatic birds we have the privilege of caring for some of the most mysterious and difficult species to rehabilitate such as grebes, loons, pelicans, surf scoters and more.

Each year presents challenges for us to conquer on behalf of the birds and the wild environments they call home. In our 2017 Annual Report, read more about some of the most compelling events presented to us in our recent past, such as the East Bay Mystery Spill, the Refugio Spill, and others. See how frequently we remove fish hooks and fishing line from our birds in care, and about other human impacts, we work to reverse, beyond oil spills, every day.

Learn about our financials, and about how we remain lean and efficient in order to get more work done. See how our history informs our future plans and get a peek into the direction Bird Rescue intends to take in 2018 and beyond. Read about our amazing staff and volunteers and enjoy our spectacular photography that illustrates the birds themselves, the reason behind all our efforts.

We’ll be announcing the release date and will be keeping you informed about how you can access the report and learn about every aspect of our work and about what we can all do for the future of the birds!

June 1, 2018

Rescuer’s Perspective – Katie Mcafee

Between both our Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife centers, International Bird Rescue helps to save the lives of thousands of birds each year. Our specialized rehabilitation clinics are open 365 days a year and staffed with an incredible team of technicians, volunteers, center managers, and one resident Veterinarian. While we are grateful to this incredible group of people for the work that they do, almost all of the day-to-day rescues that we see would NOT be possible without the personal action of the many kind-hearted rescuers that bring birds to our centers every day. It is for this reason that we value the perspective and motivation behind the many rescues that these everyday heroes take the time to make. Today’s rescuer’s perspective focuses on Katie Mcafee who took matters into her own hands when she saw an abandoned group of baby ducklings on the side of a busy highway after their mother had been struck by a car.

It was a typical day for Katie as she was driving home from work on Highway 37, not far from our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center in Fairfield, California. As she was preparing to exit the busy highway, she noticed a dead female Mallard on the side of the road, with a cluster of baby ducklings standing close by. She steered the car to the side of the road, and successfully coerced the young ducklings into her care. She then brought them to the center and shared her tale of saving the young bird’s lives.

When asked why she did what she did, Katie described the experience as “just knowing in my gut that I had to do something.” Katie mentioned that she drives highway 37 regularly, and often sees dead animals on the side of the road. Parts of highway 37 are active wildlife habitat, and as a result, many animals suffer a sad fate. Katie said that it felt good to actually be able to help the ducklings after seeing so many animals on the same road that could not be saved.

Katie is a prime example of the type of rescuer that we see come through our doors all of the time at the center. A nature enthusiast, who notices the disparity in the natural world, and wants to do something to help. When we asked Katie how she felt after doing her very good deed, she replied saying that she left the center with a sense of fulfillment and excitement after being able to help the young birds. Thank you, Katie, for helping the birds, and for joining us in our mission to do our part every day, to protect the natural world!

March 29, 2018

The Amazing Albatross!

Editor’s Note: This piece was prepared by our long-time volunteer, Joanna Chin. Photos were provided by her husband, Byron Chin. 

Waved albatross and chick, Española Island, Galápagos- Photo by Byron Chin

 

Have you ever seen an albatross? Unless you’ve spent a lot of time at sea or have gone out specifically looking for them, you probably have not. Albatrosses are remarkable birds that spend the vast majority of their lives at sea, never touching land for years at a time. If you have seen an albatross, you’re not likely to forget it: they are large, strikingly beautiful birds.

Laysan albatross resting near its nesting colony, Kaua’i, HI – Photo by Byron Chin

 

They have incredible wingspans; the wandering albatross, in particular, can have a wingspan of 12 feet! Their long wings allow albatrosses to glide over the waves on the open sea without having to flap. Their gliding flight does not use much energy, which is what enables them to travel hundreds of miles per day. The downside to this style of flight is that they need brisk winds in order to take off, and sometimes need to run into the wind with wings outstretched to help them generate the lift required to take off.  While ungainly on land, they are incredibly graceful in the air.

 

Black-footed albatross “running” across the sea while taking off, off the coast of Half Moon Bay, CA – Photo by Byron Chin

 

Albatrosses are members of the tubenose family, so named for the little tube-like structures on their bills (see below photo). Unlike many birds, albatrosses have a keen sense of smell thanks to their tube noses – they can smell fish oil from miles away.  They cannot dive deeply, so they obtain their prey from the surface of the sea. They eat fish, squid, and invertebrates, and will also scavenge waste from fishing vessels.

 

Note the ‘tube nose’ of this black-footed albatross, off the coast of Half Moon Bay, CA – Photo by Byron Chin

 

Black-footed albatross and young Western gulls with Garibaldi fish head, off the coast of Half Moon Bay, CA – Photo by Byron Chin

 

Albatrosses mate for life and have an exceedingly low rate of “divorce” so long as both partners are still alive. They have wonderful “dances” that are specific to each species; these dances are used to find mates and reinforce the pair bond. A pair of albatrosses will typically lay a single egg every other year, and it takes an entire year for both parents to raise that one chick.

A waved albatross “sky-points” as part of its dance for its mate, Española Island, Galápagos – Photo by Byron Chin

 

Laysan albatross chick, Kaua’i, HI – Photo by Byron Chin

 

Both parents contribute equally to brooding and chick-feeding duties. Laysan albatrosses have been known to travel 1,600 miles over the course of 17 days to find food for their chicks! Once the chick fledges, s/he will spend the next 5-7 years at sea before returning to land to look for a mate. During their time at sea, the birds will never once touch land. Once young albatrosses return to land and find a mate, their first attempts at chick rearing are often unsuccessful. Most breeding pairs do not successfully fledge a chick until the age of 8 or 9 years. Birds who are still too young to breed but who return to the colony are very curious and social, and often “visit” the nests and chicks of other birds!

Northern royal albatrosses greeting each other on their breeding grounds, Dunedin, NZ – Photo by Byron Chin

 

Albatrosses are long-lived birds; some individuals are known to be over 60 years of age. The most famous (and possibly the oldest) is a Laysan albatross known as Wisdom, who was banded on Midway Atoll in 1956 when she was estimated to be five years old based on the fact that she had returned to land. She’s been raising chicks at the same nest site ever since. Interestingly, while most albatrosses raise a chick every other year, Wisdom and her mate have fledged nine chicks since 2006! She’s laid yet another egg as of December 2017, at the age of 67. You can read more about Wisdom’s amazing life here.

 

Laysan albatross soaring near its nesting colony, Kaua’i, HI – Photo by Byron Chin

 

With albatrosses having such slow rates of reproduction over the course of their long lives, it’s easy to see where any threat could absolutely decimate their population. Sadly, albatross species worldwide face a number of dire threats:

  • Poor fishing practices: Longline fishing, gill nets, and drift nets kill astonishing numbers of albatrosses and other seabirds each year. It is estimated that longline fishing kills 300,000 seabirds every year. One study estimates that the number of albatrosses killed just by Japanese longline fleets in the Southern oceans is 44,000 per year. Improvements in fishing practices can dramatically reduce seabird deaths. For example, weighting long lines so they sink out of reach of birds more quickly and installing bird-scaring streamer lines (which birds interpret as a barrier between them and baited hooks) reduce the number of albatrosses ensnared and killed by longline fishing. Fishing at night has also been helpful, as albatrosses locate their prey by sight as well as smell. There is promising data on a device known as the Hookpod that covers the barbed end of a baited hook until it has sunk to a depth of 10 meters, where albatrosses can’t reach it. Tactics that reduce seabird deaths are beneficial to fishermen as well; a hook that catches a bird is one that does not catch a fish, and seabirds can pluck bait off many hooks before they themselves are ensnared, thus wasting bait from the perspective of the fisherman and further reducing the odds that a line will catch a fish. The USA has adopted these tactics, as have several other countries, and they have reduced the number of seabird deaths. However, because albatrosses have such a wide range over the seas unless every country does this, there will still be needless deaths.
  • Plastic waste in the ocean. You’ve probably heard of the Pacific garbage patch, and that’s only the start of the problem. We, humans, use a shocking amount of plastic, and a lot of it ends up in our waterways, and ultimately, the ocean. All seabirds are impacted when they mistake plastic debris for food, or when they become entangled in plastics, such as six-pack rings or fishing line. Tubenoses, and especially albatrosses, are disproportionately impacted for two reasons. One is that they pluck their prey from the surface of the ocean, and plastic floats. The second is that floating plastics grow algae, and there is a compound in algae that, as it breaks down, emits a particular sulfur odor. This same odor is emitted by krill, which eat algae. Seabirds love to eat krill, and because the tubenoses are so driven by scent, they mistakenly eat algae-covered plastic thinking that it is food. The adults feed plastics to their chicks, which can cause gastrointestinal blockages, toxicity from chemicals leached from the plastics, and starvation because a stomach full of plastic cannot accommodate actual food. A recent study found that 90% of the world’s seabirds have eaten plastic, and that number will only rise if plastic pollution increases.
  • Introduced predators. Albatrosses have evolved to nest on small Pacific islands where no mammalian (or marsupial) predators existed. The introduction of dogs, cats, rats, mice, stoats, mongoose, possums, etc. has been catastrophic to albatrosses and other ground-nesting seabirds. Dogs and cats kill the adult birds and chicks, while rats, mongoose, and possums will eat their eggs. There has been a disturbing trend recently of mice eating Tristan albatross chicks alive on Gough Island where they breed, causing catastrophic nesting failure. Further, starting in 2015 on Midway Atoll, mice began attacking, eating, and indeed sometimes killing adult albatrosses as they nested. The adults seem unable to defend against such attacks; horrifyingly, they faithfully sit on their nests as they are eaten alive.
  • Climate change. The majority of albatrosses worldwide nest on small islands in the Pacific, many of which are just barely above sea level. As global warming progresses and the ice caps melt, sea level is going to rise. At first, nesting colonies will be vulnerable to powerful storms that destroy their nests and chicks. This is happening now – scientists agree that the extremes in weather we are seeing right now are directly driven by human-caused climate change. Eventually, as sea level rises, the islands albatrosses nest on will be completely underwater. Albatrosses have extremely high nest site fidelity: they will stubbornly continue to return to the same nesting site, regardless of how inappropriate it might come to be. This was illustrated on a US Naval base on the island of Kaua’i. In recent years, conservation programs have collected a number of chicks from nests in low-lying breeding colonies and reared them on higher ground in hopes that the chicks, when they return from their years at sea, will return to the place they were raised to start a new nesting colony on safer ground. This has been done with the black-footed albatross, the Chatham Island albatross, the short-tailed albatross, and the Laysan albatross, and may be done with other species in the future.

 

Here’s What You Can Do To Save These Beautiful Birds:

  • Buy ONLY sustainably caught seafood! The Monterey Bay Aquarium runs the Seafood Watch program, which has compiled an enormous amount of information to help consumers select seafood that is sustainably caught. They don’t just tell you which fish to avoid, they tell you why you should avoid it. It encourages consumers to avoid all fish caught using poor longline techniques and other fishing practices that kill seabirds, including albatrosses. You can search by species of fish or your favorite kind of sushi! http://www.seafoodwatch.org
  • Reduce your use of plastics, particularly single-use plastics. The Natural Resources Defense Council has an excellent list here: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/10-ways-reduce-plastic-pollution. Especially try to avoid single-use plastics. These are things you use once and throw away, including plastic drinking straws, water bottles, coffee cup lids, stir sticks, plastic bags, plastic wrap, plastic packaging, anything with “microbeads” – the list goes ON! There are excellent alternatives to pretty much every single-use plastic item. Every piece of plastic you don’t use is a piece of plastic that can’t end up in the ocean, or in the belly of an albatross chick.
  • Support predator eradication efforts. Introduced predators on Pacific islands have absolutely no place in the ecosystem there and do untold harm. If you live in a country that is lucky enough to have nesting colonies of albatrosses, make sure you vote for people and policies that will support them and fund their conservation. You can also donate directly to groups that are working toward predator eradication on Pacific islands. Such efforts are ongoing in Hawaii (including Midway Atoll), New Zealand, Gough Island (via the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), the Galápagos Islands, and many other places. While we’re at it, don’t forget to keep your cat indoors! While you probably don’t have seabirds nesting nearby, outdoor cats are an introduced mammalian predator in any ecosystem. Outdoor cats are estimated to kill between 1.3 and 4 billion birds per year in the USA alone! Indoor kitties live longer, healthier lives to boot.
  • VOTE! While we can all take steps to reduce our carbon footprint, the biggest impact comes from national policy. We need to elect representatives who will advocate and legislate for a healthy planet and a sustainable future. We need policy shaped by people who believe that climate change is a real and imminent threat to our planet and all the species that live on it. We need leaders who believe in and encourage science, and who know that change is necessary and possible to preserve our natural world for generations to come. No election is too small. Even a single citywide plastic bag ban has a measurable impact on plastic waste. Vote early, vote often, and tell your friends and family to vote. The lives of albatrosses, and of all creatures, depend on it.

White-capped mollymawks resting on the sea outside Dusky Sound, NZ – Photo by Byron

 

Sources:

 

 

March 28, 2018

Blue-banded Brown Pelican M38 Sighted in Breeding Colony off California Coast

Editor’s Note: This story was prepared by staff member, Suzie Kosina.

It isn’t often that we receive reports of our banded birds on breeding colonies, especially considering the colonies are typically in remote and sometimes, protected areas.  However, these locations are commonly monitored by biologists where they track nest locations, chick counts, breeding pairs, etc.

Just last summer, we received a blue-banded Brown Pelican sighting report of previous Bird Rescue patient, E17 on a nesting colony in Baja California.  You can read more about E17’s sighting by GECI biologist Emmanuel Miramontes here.  We are very excited to report that a second blue-banded Brown Pelican has been spotted in a breeding colony near a nest of chicks in March of this year!  In this photo, by Chris Berry of the California Institute of Environmental Studies (CIES), M38 was spotted in post-breeding/chick feeding plumage alongside two Brown Pelican chicks.  The photo was taken on Santa Barbara Island located in the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Southern California.

 

Photo credit: Chris Berry of CIES, 2018, Channel Islands, CA

 

Photo credit: Chris Berry of CIES, 2018, Channel Islands, CA

 

M38 was a patient of ours in 2011.  While in care, the bird’s bill was measured to determine the sex and the plumage was evaluated to determine the age.  Based on this information, we knew we were working with an adult (at least 3-4 years old), male Brown Pelican at the time of admission.  He came to us with severe emaciation, hypoproteinemia, and anemia in addition to weakness, bruising and abrasions on the legs, and pressure lesions on the feet, indicating he had been in poor condition for quite some time.  With treatment at our SF Bay Wildlife Center in Fairfield, CA, he recovered quickly, more than doubling his red blood cell fraction and adding about 50% of his original weight. After his release in Alameda, CA in late 2011, he was spotted one other time in early 2015 at Moss Landing, CA as captured in a stunning portrait by Josh Whaley.  As of now, M38 would be at least 10 years old.

For almost 40 years from 1970 to 2009, Brown Pelicans were listed as an endangered species due to severely declining populations and even local extinction in some areas as a result of pesticides, such as DDT, that caused eggshell thinning.  Thankfully, the EPA banned the use of DDT in 1972 and a recovery program for California Brown Pelicans was approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1983.  In Southern California prior to the ban, the majority of this DTT was dumped over the course of 30 years by the Montrose Chemical Corporation along the coasts of San Pedro, CA and Santa Catalina Island.  More recently, in 2011, a settlement was reached that established funding for restoration and monitoring projects for numerous seabird species known to nest on offshore islands along the Baja and California coasts.

 

Photo credit: Josh Whaley, 2015, Moss Landing, CA

 

We are happy to see M38 doing so well and are greatly appreciative of the report submitted by CIES.  While our two organizations work on very different aspects of saving a once declining population, our efforts complement each other in the long-term goals of re-establishing healthy, breeding populations of California Brown Pelicans. Jim Howard, Seabird Lead at CIES, has kindly shared a few comments about their monitoring project that lead to the sighting of M38:

“California Institute of Environmental Studies (CIES; www.ciesresearch.org) has been involved in monitoring the California Brown Pelican nesting colonies at Anacapa and Santa Barbara Island, California since 1976. Currently, our work with this species is focused on monitoring the nest numbers and productivity (chicks fledged per nest) on these two islands. Once every 3-4 weeks our staff visits the colonies, and counts attending adults and occupied nests, recording the numbers and ages of pelican chicks seen in nests. Scanning the colony with spotting scopes and binoculars gives us the ability to observe interesting behaviors and record incidental data such as color banded pelicans.”

To learn more about our banding program and how to report a banded bird, please visit us at: https://www.bird-rescue.org/our-work/research-and-education/banding-program.aspx

 

January 24, 2018

2017 Bird of the Year – American White Pelican

American White Pelican – Photo by Sandrine Biziaux

The results are in! Following our 2017 Bird of the Year contest, online voters have chosen the American White Pelican as our 2017 Bird of the Year at Bird Rescue. This charismatic candidate stole the show, taking 40% of the overall vote. It beat out five other aquatic birds, including a banded Brown Pelican spotted in Mexico.

The American White Pelican is one of the largest birds in North America, occurring mostly in the Western and Southern portions of the continent. It is a common bird for us at both of our wildlife centers and is a favorite amongst staff, volunteers, and supporters.

This year’s winner was exemplary not only of the troubles that face aquatic birds but of what can be achieved when a group of inspired people take action. The Southern California pelican was a victim of fishing line injuries, and because of a long list of partners and community members, the bird was able to find its way to recovery at our LA wildlife center.

Fishing hooks are commonly discarded or left behind in coastal regions, resulting in a devastating amount of injuries to wildlife. Not only do the remnants of the hooks puncture muscles, joints, bones, and tear flesh, but the lines attached to these hooks get wrapped around the necks, legs, and bodies of birds.

Fishing line injuries are a prominent issue for many of the birds that we treat at both of our clinics, and are an example of the negative impact that humans can have on wildlife. Marine debris, including fishing lines, effects seabirds and other marine life on a daily basis and are a growing cause of concern for our oceans and our wildlife.

For us, the plight of ocean debris and its resulting injuries to wildlife is serious, and one that is worthy of spending the next year delving into. Through awareness, education, inspiration, and action – together we can do our part to reduce or remove altogether the impacts of this dire threat.

At Bird Rescue, we are as committed as ever to our mission and look forward to sharing ways that you can help us toward our goal over the next year. Stay tuned for more information on the challenge of ocean debris, and the ways that we can all help towards a solution. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. For updates and bird education, sign up for our popular Photo of the Week – delivered via email each Saturday morning.

December 22, 2017

Bird of the Year: 2017

Join us in celebrating the year past at Bird Rescue by reading about some our favorite and most poignant patients from 2017. While we know why all of the birds listed below have special meaning for us, now it’s time to hear from you! Help us select the 2017 Bird of the Year by casting your vote by December 31st, 2017. Make sure to stay check back in early January when we announce the winner! To cast your votes, click the link below:

 

Cast your vote for the 2017 Bird of the Year at Bird Rescue!

 

#1: American White Pelican

American White Pelican – Photo by Sandrine Biziaux

Second to oil spills, fishing hook injuries present prominently in our patients, reminding us of the negative human impact on the birds for which we care. Fishing hooks are commonly discarded or left behind in coastal regions, resulting in a devastating amount of injuries to wildlife. Not only do the remnants of the hooks puncture muscles, joints, bones, and tear flesh, but the lines attached to these hooks get wrapped around the necks, legs, and bodies of birds.

Often a bird will not only suffer injuries from the gear itself but will acquire additional injuries from thrashing around to free itself. Struggling while entangled in line can result in broken bones, lacerations, and dislocations. The American White Pelican pictured above had a hook embedded in its foot, as well as a fractured lower left bill, several lacerations on its neck and foot, and a fish hook wound at the tip of the mandible.

This particular pelican found its way to Bird Rescue through the help of numerous wonderful organizations and caring individuals including our friends at the Sea and Sage Audubon Society at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, and the Newport Beach Police and Animal Controls Departments. As is the case with many of the birds that we treat at Bird Rescue, we are grateful to be an integral part of such a large and caring group of individuals striving to mitigate the impacts of humans on wildlife.

 

 

#2: Common Murre

Common Murre – Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

From April to August each year Bird Rescue booms with new life, as our wildlife centers fill to the brim with thousands of baby birds. When nesting season is at its height, we see an extreme influx of orphaned, injured, and starving baby aquatic birds. Affectionately referred to as, “baby bird season,” this hectic time of year is both challenging and rewarding. Last year, between our Greater Los Angeles and our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife centers, Bird Rescue treated more than 2,100 baby birds in need.

Baby birds are particularly vulnerable to disturbances, and if they get rustled from their nests too early, their chances of survival are meager. With an increase in human disturbances to nesting sites and an increase in non-native predators, young birds are often at an unfair advantage when it comes to getting a good start.

It is for this reason that Bird of the Year candidate number 2 is one of our most well-loved orphaned baby birds. Affectionately named “Tugboat” after a Facebook fan commented that he “looked like a little Tugboat”, the adorable Common Murre who came to us with a fractured wing last July, was a memorable patient for us as well as for many others who followed and rooted for his recovery. Tugboat was brought to us from our friends at Wild Care after being found inside a bag at the Stinson Beach Community Center. The young murre was with us for a little over two months and was eventually released alongside another Common Murre in-care, at Fort Baker in Sausalito, California.

Bird Rescue along with other wildlife rehabilitation centers play an essential role in this very busy season. While our centers remain full of hungry chicks who need constant feeding and tending to, we are happy to do our part in rearing these young birds so that they may one day return to the wild. Watching orphans like Tugboat grow up in our care and get released is just one of the many reasons that we do the work that we do!

 

 

#3: Pacific Loon

Pacific Loon – Photo by Katrina Plummer

In April and May of 2017, the Bird Rescue Greater Los Angeles Center received a sudden influx of loon patients. In that two-month period, 145 loons were admitted, more than 20 at a time on some days. Of the three different species of loons affected, the vast majority of these patients were the beautiful Pacific Loon.

These birds were found beached all along the Southern California coast. Countless more birds washed up on shore, already deceased. The sudden die-off is suspected to have been caused by Domoic Acid (DA) poisoning from a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB), and a number of our cases were confirmed by blood test. DA affects the brains of animals, often causing seizures, disorientation, and death.

While these algal blooms are naturally occurring events, this year it had a particularly heavy impact on the loons. These birds are especially difficult to care for, so Bird Rescue had to kick things into high gear to handle so many high-risk patients. Extra volunteers came in to help care for the birds and, along with staff, worked long hours to make sure that each bird received the care it needed. In the end, IBR was able to successfully release 36% of the loons that came into care during the height of the event.

 

Domoic Acid infected Loons treated at Los Angeles Center

Common Loon Pacific Loon Red-throated Loon
Admitted April 2017 – May 2017 19 98 28
Died 4 21% 48 49% 19 68%
Euthanized 9 47% 11 11% 1 4%
Released 6 32% 39 40% 8 29%

 

 

#4: Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican – Photo by Bart Selby

This iconic California bird was once federally listed as an endangered species. After 36 years of conservation efforts, the Brown Pelican was officially delisted in 2009. Since this time, International Bird Rescue has been placing uniquely numbered blue bands on each Brown Pelican that gets released from either of our California centers. The Blue-banded Pelican Program was created as a concerted effort to increase the number of pelican sightings of our rehabilitated birds, which provides us with valuable information we can apply towards our research.

The Blue-banded Pelican program is part of our Research and Education program at Bird Rescue, which is one of our core programs within the organization. Since implementing this program, Bird Rescue has banded over 1,200 Brown Pelicans. In 2017 alone there have been 111 blue-banded Brown Pelican sightings reported directly to the organization, and this is just the preliminary count pending a final tally (which is expected to add another couple of hundred). The Brown Pelican featured as contender number 3 in our “Bird of the Year” contest is a stellar example of the possibilities that this program offers.

The above picture of Brown Pelican “E17”, named after the unique number located on his blue band, was taken last summer nesting with two babies off the coast of Baja California. The pelican, who was released seven years ago from our Greater Los Angeles wildlife center, is a sign of hope for us that our rehabilitation efforts are paying off. While banded pelicans have previously been sighted foraging and migrating, this is the first ever sighting of one of our banded pelicans breeding in the wild. “The sighting of E17 is a confirmation of our work,” said JD Bergeron, Executive Director. “To see a former patient rejoining the breeding population is an encouraging sign of the success of our efforts and a reminder of the importance of wildlife rehabilitation.”

Note: The sighting occurred off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, on San Jeronimo Island by Emmanuel Miramontes, a biologist working with a Mexican nonprofit organization GECI A.C. (Group of Ecology and Conservation of Islands). San Jeronimo is more than 300 miles from E17’s release point in San Pedro, CA.

 

 

#5: Virginia Rail

Virginia Rail – Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an influx of these secretive freshwater marsh rails at both of our centers. The Virginia Rail used to be a relatively rare bird for us at Bird Rescue, and while we don’t exactly see a flood of these sweet little birds, we are seeing more of them than we have in years past. In 2017, we saw 20 Virginia Rails at Bird Rescue, compared to a total of 7 rails in 2012. Whenever we see numbers like this rise in our clinics, it inevitably leads to the question – why?

Although we can’t say for sure why we are seeing more of these quirky little birds, we can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with the habitat that they live in, and the challenges that freshwater marshes face. Though freshwater wetlands offer a myriad of ecosystem services as well as provide habitat for numerous species of wildlife, these precious ecosystems are under constant threat in our developing world. The University of California at Santa Barbara estimates that over 90% of the freshwater marshes in California have been destroyed due to draining, filling, or the crowding out by non-native species.

As an organization that specializes in aquatic birds, the plight of freshwater habitat degradation deeply concerns us. As Bird Rescue moves into the year 2018, we look forward continuing to honor our original mission while also addressing the ever-increasing threats to seabirds such as marine debris, habitat disturbance, political threats and the impacts of climate change.

 

 

#6: Western Grebe

Western Grebe – Photo by Katrina Plummer

This little Western Grebe is contender #6 in our Bird of the Year contest. She came to us after becoming contaminated with oil from a natural oil seep while she was migrating south along the coast of California. This is a very common occurrence during the winter months especially off the Ventura and Santa Barbara coastlines, and Bird Rescue takes in dozens of similar affected grebes each year.

What makes this bird special is that the records of her care and progress will be used as part of a scientific study being conducted by the Bird Rescue team. The study aims to learn more about toe, hock, and keel lesions that can affect species such as this one when they are in rehabilitative care. In the wild, Western Grebes spend all of their time in the water, so their anatomy is specifically suited to those conditions. When in care, their delicate feet and legs can easily develop lesions which are greatly exacerbated if the bird is contaminated with oil. The severity of these lesions can make the difference between life and death for a patient.

The data gathered from this study will be used to develop improved practices to better care for these unique birds. With this bird’s help, and the help from many other birds like her, Bird Rescue will be able to improve the care of grebes, scoters, and murres at both their rehabilitation centers.

 

December 4, 2017

Devin Hanson: Bird Rescue Staff Since 2015

Staff Spotlight:
The work we do at Bird Rescue wouldn’t be possible without our amazing team of staff and volunteers! Read below to meet one of our stellar team members.

Devin Hanson – bird washing at our LA wildlife center

Devin started with Bird Rescue as an intern and was so wonderful that we had to hire her as one of our two full-time Rehabilitation Technicians at our Los Angeles wildlife center. Her background is in Marine Biology, which she studied as an undergrad at the University of Oregon.

Devin originally hails from the state of Washington’s Puget Sound area, where her love of marine biology was first born. She grew up in a small town where one of the major pastimes was tracking the lives of the area’s three well-known pods of orcas. Devin recounts these experiences fondly and says they are what inspired her to go into marine science. Devin tells us she is happy to be at Bird Rescue and feels lucky to be part of an organization that provides great care for birds and great training for its staff.

When Devin is not hard at work saving birds’ lives, she enjoys gardening, dancing, and teaching. She is a lifelong competitive dancer (hip-hop, contemporary, and lyrical) who believes that dancing is fun and brings balance to her life. She recently began teaching a hip-hop class that some of her fellow staff members have attended (the word is that it’s quite the workout!).

We love having interesting, knowledgeable, and creative teammates like Devin—she’s a hard worker and a valuable co-worker, and she’s brought her dancing skills to us for some after-work fun. Thanks, Devin, for bringing all of your assets to the Bird Rescue family!

October 15, 2017

Atlas Fire Hits Close to Home for Bird Rescue’s SF Bay-Delta Wildlife Center

The Atlas fire in California is has been hitting close to home for the past week at Bird Rescue. Our San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center, which is also our headquarters, is located in Fairfield, California, not far from the path of the fires.

We kept our birds-in-care at the facility as long as we could before the poor air quality and the looming possibility of evacuation rose beyond our acceptable threshold. For the well-being of our birds, we made the decision on Wednesday evening to release those that were healthy enough to go, and to transfer the remaining patients to partner centers outside the fire zone.

Preparing aquatic birds to be transferred to any outside facility (especially those not specialized in aquatic care) takes a tremendous amount of energy, and we are grateful that our team of employees and volunteers stepped up to the challenge. From exit examinations to preparing the bird’s medications and food, paperwork, and arranging transport, the process is extremely time-consuming and tedious.

Huge thanks to partner centers WildCare (San Rafael), Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA (San Mateo), The SPCA for Monterey County (Monterey), and Pacific Wildlife Care (San Luis Obispo) for receiving these patients. We hope that they are all adjusting nicely to their new respective centers.

So long as it is still safe to do so, our center will remain open as a service to the public for wildlife emergencies. However, we will not be receiving new patients until the situation improves. Our hearts go out to our employees, volunteers, and supporters who have already been impacted. We join in unity with the communities affected, our fellow emergency response professionals, and all the many of you who have stepped up to help out, with shelter, with donations, and with your support.

In our 46-year history, we have never needed to evacuate all of the birds from our facility. We have been through floods, handled numerous oil spill emergencies, felt earthquakes, endured other extreme weather, and yet this evacuation is unique for our SF Bay-Delta wildlife center. Our flight aviary may be motionless at the moment, but we are thankful we can see the uncharred hill behind us through the smoke.

While we are not currently accepting new patients at our SF center, we are happy to report that business, as usual, will go on at our Los Angeles wildlife center. We are glad to be able to continue to serve the Los Angeles area and are eagerly awaiting the ability to do so again at our SF Bay-Delta wildlife center.

To keep updated on the most current situation at Bird Rescue, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thank you again for all of your support, which is needed now more than ever!

Sincerely and with gratitude,
The International Bird Rescue Team

 

August 26, 2016

American White Pelican Out of Trouble

American White Pelican

American White Pelican released at McNabney Marsh, Martinez. This bird came to us with two broken legs, but has since recovered from surgery, ready for the wild! Photo: Cheryl Reynolds

Great news! The American White Pelican reported in our July 26 blog post successfully recovered from his two leg fractures and was released Aug 22 in McNabney Marsh in Martinez, CA.

When the cage was opened, he calmly walked out and took his time walking over to the water. We watched an interesting display of pelican thought processes as he decided what to do next. He first looked at a large group of his species resting on the shore far away, and then a smaller group closer to us that were in the water feeding. He took one last look back at us then entered the water and swam a small distance, next thing we knew he was taking flight towards the small feeding group. After landing in the water he calmly swam up to them and immediately started enjoying his first self-caught meal in more than a month. We could not have asked for a more perfect release of this bird back into the wild!

American White Pelican

American White Pelican “Double Trouble” taking flight to join a small group of his species. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds

Note from Dr Rebecca Duerr:

The highlight of August for me was this release! The care of this single bird really exemplified the nature of everything we do for thousands of birds every year, requiring a tremendous and coordinated effort among all the bird’s caregivers in order for him to make it to release. Every aspect of his care from housing and feeding decisions and delivery, to anesthesia, surgery, and medication administration, to assuring nothing bad happened during his time in private pools or the pelican aviary, to the funding that paid for it all, was absolutely essential for getting this guy out the door.

Having worked in wildlife rehabilitation for nearly 30 years, I have a really solid appreciation that pretty much everything I am able to do surgically for our birds is dependent on the efforts of everyone else; the fanciest surgery is totally pointless without the rest. Consequently, I’d like to personally say thank you to everyone who had a hand in this guy’s and every other bird’s care! Great teamwork all around! Thank you for being willing to go the extra mile for our patients.

You can read more about his care here: http://blog.bird-rescue.org/index.php/2016/07/patient-of-the-week-double-trouble-american-white-pelican/

How did you help a bird today?

American White Pelican standing on exam table during a check-up. Both external fixators are visible; they are made of steel pins that pass through the bone and a combination of metal and epoxy that holds the external portions of the pins in the correct position. The odd shapes are due to the shapes of pelican legs, each fracture's different need for support, and the need for the bird to be able to both stand and crouch comfortably.

In July the American White Pelican had external fixators attached made of steel pins that pass through the bone and a combination of metal and epoxy that holds the external portions of the pins in the correct position.

February 8, 2016

Patient of the Week: California Gull

This California Gull came to our Los Angeles center this week after being hit by a car in Carson, CA. The impact resulted in compound fractures (see x-ray) of both the radius and ulna in the left wing.

Our veternarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr DVM, pinned the bones back together and the patient is now in a recovery cage.

First on the gull’s to-do list after surgery? Fluff and preen those feathers to cover the wrap as neatly as possible. Second? Maybe think about the fish in the dish (once sure no fingers are available).

Go little gull!

Photos by Rebecca Duerr

X-ray-CA-Gull-2-2016

August 12, 2015

The Weekly Bittern #3: Counting Birds

Dear Friends of Bird Rescue–

As I become more familiar with the work and challenges of Bird Rescue, I am aiming to give you more insider’s views of how things work at this amazing organization. The graphic above shows a snapshot of all the birds in our care in both the LA and SF Bay Wildlife Centers–that’s 292 feathery heartbeats that we need to feed, medicate, waterproof, watch over, and ultimately hope to release back into the wild.

At this time of year–breeding season–the vast majority of these numbers are orphaned and/or injured babies. The remainder consist of adult and juvenile birds that have come into care sick, broken, dehydrated, or otherwise compromised by fishing line, contaminants, animal attack, or the like.

 

The team has been working furiously all summer to stay on top of the high numbers of gull, heron and egret chicks–higher numbers than we have ever seen in a season!

Photo Credit: Cheryl Reynolds

Photo Credit: Cheryl Reynolds

Today, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing a few interesting treatments here in the SF Bay center. The first was the arrival of a hatchling Black Oystercatcher (see photo), a species which we have never raised in-house and have only seen rarely as a patient in our history. The chick was put in a heated intensive care unit along with a surrogate parent (feather duster) and we began the effort to find a suitable food. Fortunately, the chick has a taste for mussels and we have been able to get her to feed directly on tiny bits of mollusk. We have reached out to some of our peers who may have more experience with this species for guidance on the best possible care.

Yesterday, I was able to watch a delicate surgery on a new patient, a White-faced Ibis (see slideshow) with a double fracture in one wing. This bird will be featured on our BirdCam soon. Our Staff Veterinarian Rebecca Duerr and SF Center Manager Michelle Bellizzi worked tirelessly on this gentle bird’s wing, setting the affected bones and stabilizing the wing for the healing period.

Our work never ends at Bird Rescue — in a few days’ time we will likely receive another intake of birds. Until then, we’ll be busy caring for those in our centers and providing the needed support to get them closer to release.

Thank you as always for your support of Bird Rescue. We are only as strong as our base of supporters. Please keep spreading the word!

There are many ways to support International Bird Rescue:

adopt a bird

become a recurring donor

volunteer

• follow us and share our posts on Facebook and Twitter

Best regards,

JD-Bergeron_signature-web

 

 

 

JD Bergeron

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

volunteer

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_signature-web

 

 

 

JD Bergeron
Executive Director

 

April 14, 2015

We Give Thanks During Volunteer Appreciation Week

Janille_LA-Pelicans-Vol-web
This is Volunteer Appreciation Week and it reminds us that we appreciate our wonderfully helpful volunteers EVERY day!

Volunteers are a critical component of our 365 day a year bird care: They help feed our bird patients, keep clinics clean, run errands and perform some administrative duties.

Volunteers help cleanup a pond at our San Francisco Bay Center in April.

Top photo, Janille, a volunteer at our Los Angeles Center captures a Brown Pelican. Above, Volunteers help cleanup a pond at our San Francisco Bay Center in April. Photos by Bill Steinkamp and Cheryl Reynolds

Many of our volunteers have supported our “Every Bird Matters” efforts for more than 20 years!

During the Mystery Goo response this winter, we had more 300 volunteers that worked 5,000+ hours helping us rescue and rehabilitate the hundreds of seabirds that arrived at our San Francisco Bay Center.

We’re thankful to have volunteer help each day and without them the monumental task of caring for 5,000 injured, sick and orphaned aquatic birds at our two centers would be nearly impossible.

If you’d like to help, too, check out the upcoming volunteer orientations at both of our California centers: http://bird-rescue.org/get-involved/volunteer.aspx

April 10, 2015

Updated: Brown Pelican gunshot victim has perished

Resting after two surgeries to repair a broken wing bone, this male Brown Pelican is in critical condition. Photo by Kelly Berry – International Bird Rescue

This male Brown Pelican is still in critical condition after being shot in early March. Photo by Kelly Berry – International Bird Rescue

Updated April 14, 2015:  Sadly, the Brown Pelican gunshot victim died this week.

Nearly a month following the horrific shooting of a Brown Pelican found in Redondo Beach, International Bird Rescue is still caring for this critically injured seabird. After two major surgeries the bird is receiving supportive care due to an infected gunshot wound that fractured the bird’s ulna (wing).

This majestic male Brown Pelican is receiving nutritional support plus pain medications and antibiotics to treat his infection. The large amount of damaged tissue at the gunshot wound is continuing to be an obstacle to healing.

“This Pelican is in very guarded condition and we’re treating him with utmost care to help him heal,” says Dr. Rebecca Duerr, International Bird Rescue’s staff veterinarian. “We hope that the public will assist us in finding the people responsible for this needlessly cruel and illegal act.”

Through an anonymous donor, there is a $5,000 reward offered to anyone with information that might lead to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for this shooting. To report, please call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at 310-328-1516.

Background

On March 12th, a pelican that could not fly, was captured by Redondo Beach Animal Control. After being brought to our Los Angeles wildlife center, International Bird Rescue staff discovered he had a broken wing (ulna) and a fish hook embedded in his right shoulder.

This case seemed like a straightforward fishing gear injury until clinic staff took x-rays and discovered the ulna fracture was due to a gunshot wound. Tiny speckles of metal visible were noted in the radiograph image.

Pelican-Adopt-ButtonBrown Pelicans are federally protected birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. As a species only recently removed from the Endangered Species List in 2009, Brown Pelicans have enough challenges in their lives without being shot.

IBR depends on the support of the public to care for animals injured in cruelty incidents, as well as those harmed by fishing gear and other human-caused injuries. Please donate now or Adopt-a-Pelican