Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue


March 14, 2015

Update: Mystery Goo Bird Numbers

Horned Grebe recuperating in one of our pools. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Horned Grebe, cleaned of mystery goo, recuperating in pool at San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Nearly two months after 323 mystery goo seabirds arrived, International Bird Rescue is still treating the last of the bird patients affected by this unusual contaminant.

19 seabirds, including, Surf Scoters, Buffleheads and Horned Grebes are still among those in care. A total of 154 cleaned, healthy birds have now been returned to the wild.

The birds had their feathers coated by a sticky, non-petroleum substance that grounded them along the East Bay shore of San Francisco Bay.

Mystery Goo Numbers (as of March 14, 2015)

323 = Brought to center

154 = Released to date

110 = Humanely euthanized

40 = Dead on Arrival

19 = Birds still in care (mainly Surf Scoters)

Note: About 170 birds were collected dead by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) personnel.

Bufflehead awaits vet clearance for release. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Bufflehead awaits vet clearance for release. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

The 19 birds that still remain in care are those that entered our San Francisco Bay center with serious but treatable medical problems. These included severe emaciation, anemia, or injuries.

Many of these rescued birds also came to the center with pressure sores to 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 these healed quickly.


In mid-January hundreds of birds were rescued from Alameda south to Hayward in San Francisco Bay. Each was coated with an unknown tacky substance dubbed “mystery goo”.

Female Surf Scoter. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Female Surf Scoter. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

On Thursday, February 12, state and federal labs concluded that the substance that coated birds includes a mixture of non-petroleum-based fats or oils. Read the full press release from California Department Fish and Wildlife: http://ow.ly/J4bZp

With still no responsible party identified to help cover the cost of bird care, International Bird Rescue’s funded most of response costs with the help of the public and foundation donations. Bird Rescue has spent $150,000 on the response and continues to rely on public support to help with costs associated with this unusual contaminant response. Donate Now

Media reports

As scientists work to identify mystery goo, rescued birds return home, Los Angeles Times, March 1 ,2015


March 11, 2015

Saying thanks to some very helpful foundations

somerhalderlogoInternational Bird Rescue would like to thank the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and the Summerlee Foundation, Annie Lee Roberts Emergency Rescue Fund for their generous funding that helped to rescue and treat the hundreds of birds that were coated in “mystery goo” in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The caring and concerned teams at these foundations rapidly responded to our emergency request for life-saving support. We are deeply grateful to each of them and to all of you that helped these birds get back to the wild. We couldn’t have done it without you.ConFundLogo







February 10, 2015

Patient of the Week: American White Pelican

American White Pelican in care at our Los Angeles Center. Photo by  Kylie Clatterbuck

American White Pelican in care at our Los Angeles Center. Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck

Not all our birds in care were part of the San Francisco Bay mystery goo response. Last month our Southern California center received an American White Pelican from the Los Angeles County Animal Control. It was found in a weakened state at La Mirada Park.

This beautiful bird was very lethargic, not thermoregulating, and extremely thin. The Pelican also had a small laceration to its right wing that is currently undergoing wound management.

As of this week, the White Pelican is now living in our large outdoor aviary and gained quite a bit of weight over the 3 weeks in care. It weighs in at over 7,000g (15.4 lbs.)

Its wing wound has healed up well and was discontinued off of medication this week. Our Los Angeles Center staff is hopeful that it release this bird within the next week.


January 13, 2015

Patients of the week: Buffleheads


Male Bufflehead in care at San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

We’re seeing an increase of sea ducks – especially Buffleheads – in care this month.

Nearly 25 of this species have come through our doors in the past few weeks. They are emaciated, suffering from stress and have foot abrasions. Many have crash-landed in areas around San Francisco Bay.

BuffleheadThe beautiful drakes have a striking iridescent green & purple head coloring along with large white patch behind their eyes. Females are less striking with grey-tones and a smaller white patch behind the eyes.

These migrating Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) breed in Alaska and Canada among the wooded lakes and ponds. They winter along the east and west coasts of the United States.

December 30, 2014

DOUBLE your year-end donation!


Dear friends,

Just a reminder that you can double the impact of your charity donations by giving to International Bird Rescue until 11:59 p.m. on New Year’s Eve (Wednesday)! An anonymous donor is currently matching online donations to International Bird Rescue. Please make your tax-deductible gift today!

Thank you!

Team International Bird Rescue

Red-capped Plover chicks by Leo/Flickr Creative Commons

December 22, 2014


December 13, 2014

Our patient stories of the year

Puffins-300x168Dear Friends,

As 2014 comes to a close, our wildlife centers in California have cared for nearly 5,000 patients since January 1.

And every bird has a story.

Many of the animals we rescue live most of their lives far away from the human-inhabited world. Others are caught up in it (sometimes literally) and face a number of man-made threats to their existence. We do our very best every day to give these animals a second chance — to fly, to find a mate, to perpetuate their species for generations to come. This holiday season, we’re thankful you’ve shared this mission by supporting International Bird Rescue.

Challenging as it was, we culled eight of the most memorable patient stories of the year for this holiday newsletter. Your year-end, tax-deductible contribution to International Bird Rescue will help ensure this work remains strong in 2015 and beyond.

Warmest wishes this holiday season,

Barbara Signature

Barbara Callahan
Interim Executive Director

A Patient the Size of a Cottonball

Black Rail chick
Black Rails are the Greta Garbos of the North American avian world: They just want to be alone. A threatened species in California, they’re experts in hiding among marshland vegetation, and therefore rarely are seen.

So it came as a surprise that International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center received several injured Black Rails during the course of the year, as well as our first orphaned baby Black Rail, literally the size of a cottonball. Black Rails are semi-precocial, meaning they are able to feed themselves soon after hatching. That proved to be the case for this chick, which needed feeding for the first few days but then began eating mealworms on its own (click here to view).

To help build scientific knowledge of this little-understood animal, we work with the Black Rail Project at the University of California-Berkeley, which banded this bird when it was old enough to be released into marsh habitat.

International Bird Rescue’s team of experts is well-equipped to care for sensitive species – endangered, threatened or near threatened. These include the Marbled Murrelet, California Least Tern, Ashy Storm Petrel, Snowy Plover and Piping Plover.

Red the Pelican Flies Again

Red the Pelican
One of our longest rehabilitation cases is that of Red #308, a California Brown Pelican who spent well over a year in care for a condition all-too-common to these birds: fishing tackle-related injuries. You can read about this patient in an L.A. Times op-ed here.

Brought to our San Francisco Bay center as a hatch-year bird, Red (nicknamed for the color of his temporary leg band) had a horrible wound to his left patagium — a fold of skin on the leading edge of the wing — caused by an embedded fishing hook and monofilament fishing line. Over the course of many months, his injury slowly healed. But Red seemed unable (or uninterested) in flying. So we employed physical therapy and plenty of regular flying workouts, and in time Red was flying from high perch to high perch in the center’s expansive pelican aviary.

Releasing Red in November at Ft. Baker, within a stone’s throw of the Golden Gate Bridge, was an emotional milestone, one made possible by staff and volunteers’ tireless work to save a Brown Pelican from an insidious environmental problem.

We’re proud to see our work with this species prominently featured in the new documentary Pelican Dreams, now in theaters.

Curious Cases of Crash-Landed Grebes

Eared Grebe with Chick
An LAX runway. The Mojave Desert. Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. This fall, Southern California residents have seen a large number of crash-landed grebes (pronounced “greebs”) in urban areas and remote locations far from water.

Crash-landed birds are birds that have hit the ground and are unable to regain flight. For instance, the delightful Eared Grebe (shown here with chick in tow) can easily mistake pavement for water and often becomes grounded in parking lots and streets. Stuck in this predicament, these birds will end up dragging themselves across asphalt and concrete as they try to reach water. Unless captured, treated for their injuries and relocated to water, they don’t survive. (View video of these animals in a diving bird pool here.)

This season, our Los Angeles center has cared for well over 100 crash-landed grebes, many of which were symbolically adopted thanks to our friends at The Port of Long Beach as well as devoted International Bird Rescue supporters.

Photo by Daniel Arndt/Flickr Creative Commons

Brown Boobies, Bookending 2014

Photo of Brown Booby
This year began and ended with Brown Boobies found far from their established ranges and treated by our animal care professionals. A large seabird that breeds in tropical and subtropical regions such as the Gulf of California, the Brown Booby is an uncommon visitor to the West Coast of the U.S. In January, our San Francisco Bay center cared for a Brown Booby found beached and emaciated at Point Reyes National Seashore. Following rehabilitation, the bird was released off the coast of Los Angeles, much closer to its normal range (you can see video of the release here).

Another Brown Booby recently was flown to our L.A. center from Alaska (3,000 miles out of range), where it was found injured on a fishing vessel. This bird remains in care and is no longer limping. We’re very hopeful for an upcoming release!

The name “booby” is thought to be derived from the Spanish word bobo, or “stupid,” given the species’ tendency to land on ships where they were easily caught. Historical records show they were sometimes eaten by shipwrecked sailors on vessels including the Bounty. Whatever their intellectual capacities may be, these birds prove to be charming and charismatic patients!

A Bittersweet Release: Elegant Tern

Photo of Elegant Terns
For every case ending in an awe-inspiring release, there’s an animal whose injuries were just too much to bear.

Some stories are a mix of both.

Over the summer, our Los Angeles center team received an adult Elegant Tern and a tern chick hooked together by a multi-hook fishing lure.

Nick Liberato, a biologist who monitors a tern colony on nearby Terminal Island, found the birds and took this heartbreaking photo upon rescue. “I spotted them as I was ushering some stray chicks back through the chick fencing and into the main rookery,” Liberato says. “At first, I thought they were just tangled in monofilament [fishing line], but when I saw that multi-hooked lure puncturing both of them, I knew my tools wouldn’t cut it, so I got them over to you guys as quickly as possible.”

Our rehabilitation team separated parent from chick and meticulously treated the severe wounds of both animals. Sadly, the tern’s injuries had already become infected, and this baby bird did not survive. The parent bird healed remarkably after several weeks of care, and was released by our intern and volunteer team at Bolsa Chica Wetlands in Huntington Beach, CA. You can see a video of this bittersweet release here.

Photo by Nick Liberato

American Avocet, Viral Video Star

Photo of Avocet Hatching
American Avocets are shorebirds common to the Pacific coast and sport a most-striking upturned bill that the bird uses to “sweep” through the water to catch small invertebrates. In June, an oil spill at a Los Angeles-area refinery caused a small colony of American Avocets to abandon their nests.

Twenty-one eggs were collected and sent to our L.A. center. Only one hatched, and video of this baby bird entering the world went viral on Facebook, with nearly 1 million views. (If you’re not on our Facebook page, we recently posted it on Vimeo too.)

Thanks to eBird, a citizen science project that tracks bird populations, we identified an American Avocet flock in the Los Angeles River where this young bird was later released.

Pink the Pelican

Pink-Pelican-Before-After 2
The story of “Pink,” a California Brown Pelican and arguably one of the most famous patients in International Bird Rescue history, is one that begins with the worst of humankind, but ends with the best. In a saga followed by national media, Pink was starving as a result of a deliberate attack in which its pouch was slit completely by an individual or individuals who to this date remain at large.

Thankfully, pelicans are resilient animals and respond well to expert veterinary and rehabilitative care. International Bird Rescue’s reputation in caring for pelicans is unmatched the world over.

This patient, who wore a pink temporary leg band while at our Los Angeles center (thus the bird’s nickname in the news), was nursed back to health over the course of several weeks. When Pink was strong enough to withstand surgery, our veterinarian sewed his throat pouch back together — a feat requiring two operations and nearly 600 stitches.

Pink was released on the sunny afternoon of June 5, leaping from his crate and soaring above the waves as Catalina Island loomed in the distance. It was a new chapter of life for this wild bird, one that symbolizes everything we stand for as an organization. Contributions from the community and donors around the nation made Pink’s care possible. We will always be grateful for the support, and we’ll share any sightings of Pink should he be spotted in the wild. Pink has since traded his pink band for a blue one, reading V70.

Herons and Egrets vs. Urban Reality

Photo of rescued Heron and Release with kids
The alleged details of the crime screamed media circus: This spring, reports began to surface in Oakland, CA, that a landscaping crew hired by the U.S. Postal Service had trimmed trees where Black-crowned Night Herons were actively nesting. Parents fled, chicks fell to the ground and branches with nests were fed into a woodchipper.

A federal investigation concluded that no baby birds had been killed via woodchipper as originally rumored. But many sustained wounds from their fall, and were transported to our San Francisco Bay center, where they were treated for such injuries as broken mandibles.

International Bird Rescue stayed above the fray and indignation, however much we sympathized with the outrage that many bird lovers had. Our mission was simple and two-fold: one, to care for as many birds as we could, and two, to educate the public that spring is not the time to be trimming your trees for this very reason.

As part of our outreach, we invited the tree-trimmer responsible for the incident to our center for a first-hand look at these heron patients, as well as baby Snowy Egrets (shown below), which also often fall from nests and onto streets and sidewalks. It was a wonderful meeting, one accompanied by unprompted remuneration for the birds’ care by this gentleman.
Photo of Snowy Egret Family
Our San Francisco Bay center, in conjunction with partner wildlife organizations and Audubon chapters, released hundreds of egrets and herons back into the wild during the spring and summer. Some of these releases involved local youth groups like the one you see here.

Saving wildlife, educating the public and inspiring young birdwatchers: Is it possible to have more fulfilling work? We think not. We are International Bird Rescue, and we’re so thankful for your support.

Snowy Egret photo © Silvermans Photography


December 1, 2014

This season, your chance to reunite wildlife with the wild

Photo of Pink the Pelican

Pink the Pelican’s slashed pouch required two operations and nearly 600 stitches.

Dear Friends,

On April 16, 2014, a California Brown Pelican staggered between lanes of traffic in Long Beach, Calif., flapping his wings with what little energy he had left. When an animal control officer approached the bird, it became clear why this animal was too exhausted to escape capture.

The pelican’s throat pouch, used to hold fish caught by spectacular plunge diving into the ocean, was mutilated, having been cut from ear to ear.

Photo of the release of Pink the Pelican

“Pink” flies free after eight weeks in care at our Los Angeles center.

The story of “Pink the Pelican” is one that begins with the worst of humankind, but ends with the best. In a story followed by national media, Pink was starving as a result of a deliberate attack by an individual or individuals who, to this date, remain at large. Thankfully, pelicans are resilient animals and respond well to expert veterinary and rehabilitative care. International Bird Rescue’s reputation in caring for seabirds is unmatched the world over.

This new patient, who wore a pink temporary leg band while at our Los Angeles wildlife hospital (thus the bird’s nickname in the news), was nursed back to health over the course of several weeks. When Pink was strong enough to withstand surgery, our veterinarian sewed his throat pouch back together — a feat requiring two operations and nearly 600 stitches. It’s your support that makes this hard work to save animals possible. And that’s why I’m writing to you today.

Pink was released on the sunny afternoon of June 5, leaping from his crate and soaring above the waves as Catalina Island loomed in the distance. It was a new chapter of life for this bird. One week later, a chapter of International Bird Rescue’s own history came to a close: Jay Holcomb, our executive director who began his career saving birds from oil spills in 1971, died from cancer at age 63.

We are devastated by this loss and we miss Jay every day. But International Bird Rescue’s mission continues, as we know Jay would have wanted. Your contribution helps support:

  • Professional care for injured, oiled, orphaned and abused wild birds 365 days a year at two California wildlife hospitals
  • A global oil spill emergency management team with unparalleled experience
  • Innovative scientific research that aids biologists and climatologists studying our changing world
  • Public outreach which gives disadvantaged youth and bird lovers everywhere a precious connection to wildlife

PuffinsWhen you give $50, $100, $500 or more, know that your contribution directly saves the lives of animals like Pink. And your gift is tax-deductible. With our patient numbers over 15% higher this year compared to 2013, your year-end gift is more important than ever. Will you help protect the world’s precious birds?

Warmest wishes this holiday season from all of us at International Bird Rescue,

Barbara Signature



Barbara Callahan
Interim Executive Director

PS- #GivingTuesday, one of our most important online fundraising days of the entire year, is coming up in just a few days. If you’d like to make an additional contribution to serve as a matching challenge for International Bird Rescue online fans, please email us, and we’ll reply ASAP. We could really use your support! Thanks.

Puffin photo by Kenneth Cole Schneider/Flick Creative Commons


November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!


October 23, 2014

Sponsored: Long-billed Dowitcher


Thanks so much to our friends at Dowitcher Designs in Santa Barbara, CA for sponsoring the care of this injured Long-billed Dowitcher! The bird has healed and will be up for release soon! www.dowitcherdesigns.com

Own a business? Interested in sponsoring a wild bird patient? Email us and let’s get started!

June 26, 2014

Patient of the week: Baby Pied-billed Grebe

"Pied-Billed Grebe 14-2060 chick in care at SF Bay Center"
Photos by Cheryl Reynolds PBGR

This week, International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center received its first Pied-billed Grebe chick of the year.

Weighing about as much as eight pennies upon intake, the tiny bird was found alone at Riverfront Regional Park in Windsor, CA and transferred to us by our partners at the Bird Rescue Center in Santa Rosa.

We’re feeding this orphan plenty of fish every half hour in our intensive care unit and have administered antibiotics.

An adult Pied-billed Grebe was a patient of the week back in March. Check out what these birds look like all grown up here.

"Pied-Billed Grebe 14-2060 chick in care at SF Bay Center"

"Pied-Billed Grebe 14-2060 chick in care at SF Bay Center"

June 19, 2014

#TBT: Jay saving birds during the 2002 Prestige Spill in Spain


You can leave a remembrance of Jay here. Details on a memorial event will be announced soon.

May 17, 2014

Save the date! Alex and Ani is throwing a charity event for us on June 5…

Click invite to enlarge

Our friends at Alex and Ani in the San Francisco Bay Area saw the recent baby heron story, as well as news about the sheer number of baby animals in our care, and knew they wanted to help.

On Thursday, June 5, Alex and Ani’s new Emeryville location will be hosting a Charity by Design event with proceeds benefiting International Bird Rescue. Stop by and say hi! There will be plenty of lite bites, refreshments and great info on what we do to save wildlife. 15% of all sales will go directly to benefit our efforts.

See you there!

View Larger Map

January 21, 2014

Remembering Molly Richardson

Molly RichardsonOne of our fellow wildlife champions passed over the weekend. Molly Richardson of Native Animal Rescue (NAR) in the Live Oak area of Santa Cruz County died at the age of 85.

Molly was the “patron saint of the county’s sick, injured and abandoned wildlife,” according to an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper.

“A native of India who came to America by way of New Zealand, Richardson settled in Pacific Grove, where she was a school teacher. But her retirement and a move to Live Oak would bring a second career, converting a home into a hub for Native Animal Rescue, a network of big-hearted and often brave volunteers nursing pelicans, song birds, raccoons, possums, bats, foxes and even skunks back to health.”

NAR under Molly’s direction was often the first responder to helping rescue injured and sick Brown Pelicans in the Santa Cruz/Monterey areas. She and her team would stabilize the birds and often arrange transportation to our San Francisco Bay Center.

Thank you, Molly, for giving all animals a much-needed voice in this world. We follow your example every day.

December 11, 2013

24-hour match: Your gift feeds twice as many baby birds today!


Dear Friend,

Encountering a baby bird in the care of International Bird Rescue’s wildlife centers is a bittersweet experience: Here’s a beautiful new life, but one that now must survive without its parents.

These animals always inspire us, and we often hear how they inspire you too. “I read about what you are doing and it just touches my heart,” a woman named Julie recently wrote to us. “I’m on social security, I don’t have a leg, and they just raised my rent. Maybe things will get better. You never know.”

Despite her hard times, Julie found it in her heart to send what she could — a small amount that speaks volumes about her support for wildlife. We were bowled over by her spirit of generosity.

Thanks to an angel donor, Julie’s gift will be doubled today, as well as your gift to save orphaned and other wild birds. Your support during this critical time is most appreciated.

If you’ve already given this year, thank you so very much. In just a few months, these precious young birds will arrive at our doorstep — by the hundreds. They come to us for any numberKilldeer, chick IMG_5128 copy-M of reasons. Mother ducks get hit by a car or separated by busy roadways. Fledging egrets fall from nests in trees high above traffic medians. Whatever the species, we treat all these baby birds with the expert care and reverence they deserve. Will you help these animals today?

We’re proud to say that we give countless orphaned birds a second chance with food and medical care. We minimize human interaction and place the birds with surrogate parents or other orphans of the same species to ensure the best possible chance for successful reintroduction into nature — always our bottom-line goal.

Every orphaned bird has a story. With your help, we can give that story the happy ending it deserves.

Best wishes this holiday season,

Jay Holcomb-Signature

Jay Holcomb
Executive Director

P.S. – Prefer to give over the phone? Call us at 510-289-1472 and we’ll handle your gift right away.

International Bird Rescue is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Your contribution is tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Tax ID: 94-1739027