Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

January 17, 2015

Mystery substance threatens seabirds in the San Francisco Bay

Bird-Rescue

Photo of Bufflehead coated in mysterious goo

UPDATE (Sun, January 18, 10:40 pm): The total number of birds contaminated with a mystery substance transported to us from the San Francisco Bay has now risen to over 150. At least 20 have died, though we are now having success in washing birds healthy enough to endure the wash process.

We need your support. Please consider a donation of $25, $50 or more to care for these wonderful seabirds.

Found a bird? Report online: http://goo.gl/forms/cRxIyc1bTx

Earlier coverage:

OAKLAND (Jan. 17, 2015) — Dozens of seabirds have been found on the San Francisco Bay’s eastern shores covered in a viscous, mystery substance that destroys feather waterproofing, which can cause hypothermia and death.

East Bay Regional Park District staffers notified International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center late Friday of a large influx of birds found on both land and water covered in the Mapunknown substance. As of Saturday afternoon, a total of 60 seabirds, including Surf Scoters, Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes had been transported to the International Bird Rescue center located in Fairfield. Four have died, and an unspecified additional number of birds have been found and are awaiting transport by search-and-collection teams.

Areas of the East Bay where the birds have been found include Crab Cove in Alameda, the Hayward shoreline and the San Leandro Marina.

“We have not seen this type of substance before, though preliminary tests have shown it is not petroleum-based,” said Barbara Callahan, interim executive director of International Bird Rescue who served as bird unit leader during the 2010 BP oil spill. “Our veterinary and rehabilitation staff is working overtime to ensure all birds transported to us receive optimal emergency care.”

Like petroleum, the mystery substance, clear to pale gray in color, breaks down a bird’s feather structure, destroying the animal’s ability to regulate body temperature in the cold San Francisco Bay waters. International Bird Rescue’s team is taking the same safety precautions with the affected birds as it does with oiled animals from a spill.

With no indication of the substance’s origin, International Bird Rescue is paying for all emergency care costs at this time and is seeking public support. Donations can be made at birdrescue.org or by mail to International Bird Rescue, 4369 Cordelia Rd, Fairfield CA 94534.

“Because we’ve never seen a substance like this before, we’re uncertain how many of these spectacular seabirds we can save,” Callahan said. “But we will save as many as is humanely possible.”

"East Bay Regional Park Event 1/16/15 incoming Surf Scoter"
Photos: Top, a Bufflehead coated in the mystery substance; above, a Surf Scoter also affected. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue. 

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Surf Scoters

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Eared Grebes 

January 16, 2015

New patient: Wayward Laysan Albatross

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Laysan Albatross. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Laysan Albatross in care at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

This week we received a new patient of note: a wayward Laysan Albatross.

This wide ranging bird was found in the 100 block of Mt. View Avenue, Bay Point, CA – near Suisun Bay. It was sitting on the ground and brought to Lindsay Wildlife Museum’s wildlife rehabilitation center in Walnut Creek.

During the intake exam the Albatross was found to have superficial wounds on its maxilla (upper bill) and nares (nostrils), as well as some bruising on his legs and feet, although no open wounds. The bird was transferred to our San Francisco Bay Center and is in good condition. Its eating and getting some exercise in one of the center’s pelagic pools.

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Laysan Albatross with its impressive wingspan, can fly great distances for food. Photo: Caleb Slemmons – Flickr/CC

With an impressive 6 foot wingspan, Albatrosses can fly great distances to find food, some as far as 2,000 miles in a single day. They range from the Gulf of Alaska, to the Bering Sea, and Japan – to the west coast of California and Mexico.

Laysan Albatrosses breed primarily in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands – especially on Midway Atoll. They are susceptible to entanglement in fishing lines and plastic ingestion. Many deaths have been documented over the years of Albatrosses eating bits and pieces of plastic trash that floats throughout the Pacific Ocean. The Midway Film captures the concern that many share on this species blight: http://www.midwayfilm.com/

January 13, 2015

Patients of the week: Buffleheads

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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.

January 6, 2015

Patient in care: Surf Scoter

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Male Surf Scoter in care at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Male Surf Scoter in care at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Who does not love a Surf Scoter? With its striking multi-colored bill and a male’s velvety black feathers.

This bird is in care after getting entangled in fishing line. It had a hook in its his leg and another in his neck. He is recovering well.

You can see this Scoter on our birdcam: http://bird-rescue.org/birdcam//birdcam-1.aspx

December 30, 2014

DOUBLE your year-end donation!

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Plovers

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 23, 2014

Release! A Brown Booby takes flight from Southern California

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BRBOPhoto by Kelly Berry

Release snapshot: A wayward Brown Booby — found injured in Alaska, nearly 3,000 miles from its range — is released in Southern California on December 22.

Many thanks to our friends at the Alaska Raptor Center and Alaska Airlines for assisting in the care and transport of this remarkable bird.

December 22, 2014

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Holiday-Greetings

December 17, 2014

Patients of the week: the view from Pool B

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PoolB

Ruddy-DuckBuffleheadThis week’s featured patients are cohabiting outdoor Pool B of International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center. All belong to the family Anatidae, which comprises ducks, swans and geese.

The birds you see here are susceptible to crash-landings in urban areas and are often found stranded in cities following major storms — the variety of which we’ve experienced in California during recent weeks.

The female Ruddy Duck in the foreground belongs to the genus Oxyura, composed of stiff-tailed ducks.

Like grebes, these birds have legs placed far back on their bodies — an evolutionary feature that aids in diving propulsion as the birds hunt for underwater prey, but renders them largely immobile and helpless on land.

Both the two female Buffleheads and female Common Goldeneye belong to the genus Bucephala of sea ducks. They nest in tree cavities and will forage underwater for crustaceans and aquatic insects.  COGO

To date, our San Francisco Bay center located in Fairfield, CA, has cared for 3,154 birds in 2014 — a 15% increase over last year with two weeks still to go before 2014 ends. Your contribution makes this care possible.

For another look at our outdoor patients, visit our BirdCam for a live look at our grebes in Pool F.

 

December 13, 2014

Our patient stories of the year

Barbara Callahan

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

8
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.

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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.

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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

5
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!

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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

3
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.

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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.

1
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

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December 9, 2014

Grebe Tidings to You! (An update on the year-end drive)

Barbara Callahan

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Dear Friends,

Good news! Thanks to your support, International Bird Rescue’s year-end online giving campaign is off to a great start. As of today, we’ve raised 61% of our $30,000 goal.

Not only is a year-end gift to International Bird Rescue tax-deductible, but also it supports a growing number of patients coming to our wildlife hospitals as winter arrives.

Among them: 16 Western Grebes currently being treated at our Los Angeles center. This species, shown above, is commonly affected by marine pollution as well as severe storms, which can knock grebes to the ground in urban areas where they cannot regain flight (grebes need a runway of water to become airborne).

All grebes are labor-intensive patients. They’re also wonderful birds that we hope will be common sights along our coasts for generations to come. The Western Grebe’s courtship ritual is the stuff of avian legend!

This season, you can even “adopt” your own grebe, and we’ll send an official adoption certificate to you or to your gift recipient. Please allow up to two business days for an email version to be sent out, and one week for a certificate via standard mail.

December 31 is coming soon! Please make a tax-deductible gift to help us meet our goal for the birds cared for 365 days a year.

Warmest wishes this holiday season,

Barbara Signature

Barbara Callahan
Interim Executive Director

December 6, 2014

Patient of the week: Bonaparte’s Gull

Bird-Rescue

"Bonaparte's Gull in care at SF Bay Center"
Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

This week’s featured patient is a Bonaparte’s Gull, the only gull species known to nest in trees. It’s named after a historic figure, though not the one you’re thinking of: Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a 19th century French biologist and ornithologist who made significant contributions to American ornithology, is the bird’s namesake.

(There is, however, a bird that bear’s Napoleon Bonaparte’s name: the Napoleon Weaver, or Yellow-crowned Bishop.)

Shown here during an exam at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay center, this Bonaparte’s Gull was found BOGUat a winery in Healdsburg in Sonoma County, about 70 miles from us. The patient was originally brought to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue prior to transfer to International Bird Rescue, which cares for many gull species, including California Gulls, Heermann’s Gulls and Mew Gulls.

The bird has a laceration across its hip as well as a foot wound. However, we’ve seen that the gull is eating very well and can fly.

Currently we’re housing the bird in an indoor enclosure. We’ll keep you posted on the recovery process!

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Bonaparte’s Gull during breeding season, photo by Brian Hoff/Flickr CC

December 3, 2014

Thanks to you, our #GivingTuesday was off the charts.

Bird-Rescue

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We’re so thrilled by the support of bird lovers everywhere during #GivingTuesday. Thanks to you, we surpassed our $10K goal.

You can make your year-end gift for birds here.

Photo: Tambako/Flickr CC

December 1, 2014

This season, your chance to reunite wildlife with the wild

Barbara Callahan
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!

Bird-Rescue

Laysan-Albatross

November 24, 2014

Patient of the week: A wayward Brown Booby

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Photos by Kelly Berry

Last week, our Los Angeles wildlife center received a Brown Booby — via Alaska Airlines. Let us explain …BRBO

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen several cases of Blue-footed and Brown Boobies traveling far beyond their usual tropical and subtropical ranges. An “invasion” of Blue-footed Boobies occurred in Southern California last fall, while over the holidays last year, a Brown Booby found beached in Northern California was transferred to our San Francisco Bay center from our friends at WildCare in Marin County.

This latest Brown Booby came to us from Alaska, nearly 3,000 miles from the species’ northern range in the Gulf of California.

According to SitkaNature.org, the animal was found on a fishing boat near Kruzof Island, and was transported to the Alaska Raptor Center. There, wildlife rehabilitators assessed the animal and found the booby had a wound on its back in addition to being cold and thin.

We don’t know why this bird flew so far north, though atypical weather patterns have certainly been documented in recent months. SitkaNature.org points to unusual warming patterns in several areas of the North Pacific, for example. photo 2(1)-XL

Two challenges were evident here: One, to get the bird healthy again, and two, to get it as close to a Brown Booby’s normal range as possible. In the case of the Northern California booby we treated last year, the patient was transported down to our Los Angeles center, much closer to this plunge-feeding bird’s range.

With the help of Alaska Airlines, our patient of the week was flown in an animal crate south to LAX, where our team picked it up and brought it to International Bird Rescue’s LA center, located about 20 miles away.

Center Manager Kelly Berry writes:

After loading her in the car, I peaked into the crate to find her actively preening. Once she arrived at the center, she received a full exam and began self-feeding right away.

We did find she is favoring her right leg. [X-rays] revealed nothing significant, so we are giving her warm water pool therapy to see if it helps her.

We’ll keep you posted on this remarkable patient! Many thanks to Alaska Airlines and the Alaska Raptor Center.

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