Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

June 27, 2018

Bird Rescue Remains On-Call in the Wake of Two Major Oil Spills

Russ Curtis

Within the past week, there have been two notable oil spills impacting the world. In Rotterdam, Netherlands, hundreds of swans and other birds were oiled when 7,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil spilled into the harbor. Closer to home in Doon, Iowa, a train derailment leaked 230,000 gallons of oil into the Rock River. Both spills are categorized as “Tier 2” events, meaning that response officials are utilizing not only local responders but also national resources and response teams.

With 47 years of experience in oil spill response, we are eager to bring our skills to the scene and we stand prepared at a moment’s notice. Having handled a very similar situation to the Rotterdam spill in 2006, involving large numbers of swans at the Tallinn (Estonia) Oil Spill, we are on alert to offer our services and experience if and when it is needed. With close to 1,000 birds currently affected by the spill, we are currently in regular contact with the officials in the Netherlands and ready to activate when the call is made by on-scene officials.

Quick action is key to a successful wildlife response. With three crisis response hospitals and a fully trained team of staff and volunteers, International Bird Rescue is prepared and ready to respond to an oil spill 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Our 45+ years of specialized experience in rescuing and caring for oiled wildlife has made International Bird Rescue a global leader in oil spill response, training, and preparedness. Even while caring for the over 300 rehabilitating birds currently in care, we are ready to take action – helping to do our part to make our global waters a safer place for waterbirds in crisis.

To read more about the spill in Rotterdam, click here. To learn more about the spill in Iowa, click here. To stay up-to-date on Bird Rescue’s involvement with these spills – watch out for updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

June 15, 2018

Summer “Drill Season” In High Gear

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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 13, 2018

The Release Files: Rescued Young Pelicans Get a Second Chance

Bird-Rescue

Healthy young Brown Pelicans released at Whites Point in San Pedro. Photos by Angie Trumbo

A beautiful day for a release! Three rehabilitated Brown Pelicans took to the skies and joined a flock of local pelicans as they returned to the wild Wednesday afternoon. The healthy seabirds were released at Whites Point in San Pedro after a month in Bird Rescue care.

The opening paragraph in the Associated Press story by John Rogers captured it best:

“Birds gotta fly, and to the delight of dozens of people gathered above a rock-strewn Southern California beach, that’s exactly what a trio of Brown Pelicans did when their cages were opened.”

Concern for ailing Brown Pelicans that live along the coast of California has been mounting the past few months. Since late April at least 80 sick and dying birds came into Bird Rescue’s two California wildlife centers. The first and second year Brown Pelicans admitted show signs of emaciation, hypothermia, and anemia.

Two of three pelicans released Wednesday.

Some of these cases, such as the two pelicans that crash-landed in the middle of a Pepperdine University graduation ceremony,  garnered media attention. Many more sick birds have been found grounded on LAX airport runways, on city streets, and in people’s yards.

It’s still a mystery what’s causing these birds to crash land. It could be the challenges of warmer ocean waters that chase the pelicans fish stocks to deeper, unreachable waters. What we do know is that these young seabirds need immediate care.

With the quick action of the public and local animal control agencies, ailing pelicans can be stabilized, hydrated and fed. After a month or more of care, more will return to their familiar coastal waters where hopefully they will find food and thrive in the wild.

Thanks to all the local folks that came out to cheer on these second chance pelicans. And thanks to our donors whose support makes it possible to give mother nature a little TLC!

Taking to the skies, youthful pelicans spread their wings after release.

June 3, 2018

2017 Annual Report On The Way

Bird-Rescue

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

Bird-Rescue

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!

May 10, 2018

Sudden Surge of Sick and Dying Brown Pelicans along the Coast of California

Russ Curtis

June 13, 2018 update: 80 young Brown Pelicans have come into our two California wildlife centers.

Concern for Brown Pelicans that live along the coast of Southern California has been mounting as the reported number of sick and dying birds suddenly increased over the past week. Some of these cases, such as the two pelicans that crash-landed in the middle of a Pepperdine University graduation ceremony, have garnered media attention. Many more sick birds have been found grounded on LAX airport runways, on city streets, and in people’s yards.

More than 30 pelicans have been brought to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife center in San Pedro. The numbers have doubled in just a few days. The Brown Pelicans admitted show signs of emaciation, hypothermia, and anemia.

After being stabilized and fed, rescued Brown Pelicans recuperate in the flight aviary at Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center. Photo by Angie Trumbo–International Bird Rescue

While it is not unusual to see an uptick in hospitalized pelicans at this time of year, those birds are usually new fledglings coming to shore, hungry. The current situation is of particular concern because the birds affected are older, primarily in their second year.

“It’s normal for us to receive young pelicans who have just recently fledged their nests,” says Kylie Clatterbuck, Wildlife Center Manager, “however, what is unusual is that we are seeing many second year pelicans coming into care.”

The last large-scale problem with young Brown Pelicans occurred in 2012. During that year alone, Bird Rescue had 952 of mostly young birds came into care between its two California wildlife centers. Of those, over 600 affected pelicans were treated at the Los Angeles center.

Bird Rescue is asking for the public’s help in caring for these Brown Pelicans in need. Donations can be made online at www.birdrescue.org or mailed to the center directly (address below). We encourage anyone who spots a sick pelican to call their local animal control or contact us directly at 310-514-2573.

International Bird Rescue – Los Angeles Wildlife Center
3601 South Gaffey Street
San Pedro, California 90731

Devin Hanson, Bird Rescue Rehabilitation Technician at the Los Angeles Wildlife Center, exams young hungry and anemic Brown Pelican. Photo by Angie Trumbo–International Bird Rescue

 

Hungry Brown Pelicans outside in the pelican flight aviary at the Los Angeles Wildlife Center gobble down fish. Photo by Angie Trumbo–International Bird Rescue

At the San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center, almost 30 Brown Pelicans are in care for emaciation during pelican crash event. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds–International Bird Rescue

May 5, 2018

Conquer The Bridge Run In Los Angeles

Bird-Rescue

This summer, the L.A. Wildlife Center is getting geared up for the 10th annual Conquer the Bridge race in San Pedro. The 8.5k course crosses the Vincent Thomas Bridge – an iconic suspension bridge which spans Los Angeles harbor, connecting San Pedro and Terminal Island. These two areas represent important foraging, roosting and nesting habitats for many of the aquatic birds that Bird Rescue strives to protect.

Bird Rescue staff, volunteers, and supports have created team Yes We Peli-CAN to participate in the race on Sept 3 to help raise awareness surrounding the aquatic birds in the Port of LA area and raise funds to support Bird Rescue’s mission.

Team Yes We Peli-CAN will be working together towards the goal of raising $10,000 to go towards the care of injured, oiled and orphaned aquatic birds in the Los Angeles area. As of this month, over $1,200 has been raised. If you would like to contribute to the team campaign, visit https://www.bird-rescue.org/get-involved/support-the-conquer-the-bridge-runners

If you are interested in joining Team Yes We Peli-CAN to be a part of this exciting event, contact the Team Captain at RaceTeamLA@bird-rescue.org. Team registration remains open until Aug 24.

April 11, 2018

Hop Aboard JetBlue For Good And Vote To Help Birds

Russ Curtis

Great Blue Heron in flight. Photo by Tom Grey

Vote today to help a bird and get a chance to win two free tickets from JetBlue. Your votes earn Bird Rescue a chance to win a $15,000 grant in the airline’s “GreenUp Campaign” this spring.

Help us honor the ‘Year of the Bird’ by partnering with Bird Rescue and JetBlue to make a stand for seabirds!

Here’s a How-to-Vote:

 

March 30, 2018

Sometimes in a Spill Crisis, No Wildlife is the Best Outcome

JD Bergeron

Spill Location, Shuyak Island, Alaska

In February, just as many of our team were arriving for our co-hosting duties of this year’s National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association conference in Anaheim, CA, International Bird Rescue was called to respond to an oil spill in the remote islands of the Kodiak Archipelago.

The details were only just emerging: a 3,000-gallon bladder stored inside a dockside building fell into the ocean when strong winds caused the building to collapse.

Spectacled Eider pair, photographed by Jay Holcomb

Bad weather and surging 15′ waves prevented anyone in the response team from reaching the location in that first day, so available wildlife information was limited. Local knowledge of the area suggested that sea and river otters, seals, whales, and a variety of birds were regularly seen in the region. Our biggest concern was that the location of the spill (within a narrow strait) could mean that a large number of seabirds were weathering the storm in that very spot.

Among those of highest concern were vulnerable sea ducks like STELLER’S EIDER and SPECTACLED EIDER (shown left). These species tend to overwinter in massive flocks, making them especially vulnerable to oil spills because a large group could be affected all at once.

This effect was the case during the Treasure Oil Spill in South Africa in the year 2000 in which we participated as part of the

Photo of Treasure Oil Spill Penguin Rescue

International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) now-defunct spill response team, which affected more than 40,000 endangered African Penguins and still represents the largest and most successful wildlife response in history. To the right is an image from that spill response and demonstrates our worst fears for a large-scale disaster.

Since the spill location was hard to access, we were kept on standby in Anchorage alongside the incident command while we prepared for the possibility of oiled birds at International Bird Rescue’s Alaska Wildlife Response Center (IBR-AWRC). Preparations included developing a wildlife response plan with other wildlife agencies present, walking through the center, checking availability of our extensive response team for immediate deployment, performing inventory checks on our clinical supplies as well as those of our partner Alaska Chadux Corporation, an oil spill response organization which handles the environmental cleanup while we handle the wildlife.

Trusty bottle of Dawn dish soap in the response container ready to be deployed

The response effort achieved “boots on the ground” on the third day as the first responders were able to access the spill site and give a better assessment of actual impacts. There were no reports of oiled wildlife and all wildlife seen anywhere in the vicinity were behaving normally. This positive result was likely the result of two combining factors: harsh weather and the dense nature of the oil product that spilled.

To read more about the official account: Port William Shuyak Island Bunker C Spill.

As the week progressed, there were still no reports of oiled wildlife and we were able to spend our early evenings after the work day conducting a Bird Rescue tradition: Wildlife Surveys. Wildlife surveys involve seeking out native animals and birds in their natural habitat because:

  1. they prepare us well for the next spill by acclimating the team to the specific dynamics in a location, and
  2. since we’re all animal lovers, they provide rare opportunities to see wildlife from other regions.

Among the sightings from the Anchorage area: several MOOSE with yearlings, DALL SHEEP, COMMON RAVENS, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES, BLACK-CAPPED and BOREAL CHICKADEES (great for comparison), BROWN CREEPERS, COMMON and HOARY REDPOLLS, PINE GROSBEAKS, a very cooperative SHORT-EARED OWL, and a NORTHERN SHRIKE.

When I return to Alaska as a trainer in July, I’ll be looking for my next target: BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS, and I’ll keep you posted how that goes.

We are glad to report that to date no wildlife have been seen as affected by this spill. The cleanup effort continues and will likely do so for quite a while. In a spill response, however, no wildlife is often the best possible outcome. 

March 29, 2018

The Amazing Albatross!

Bird-Rescue

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

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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

 

March 24, 2018

The Dazzling Diversity of Gull Behavior

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Editor’s Note: Thank you to our long-time volunteer, Joanna Chin, for preparing this wonderful piece and to her husband, Byron Chin, for the beautiful photography. A special thank you to guest photographer, Amar Ayyash as well.

A Western gull parent tends to its chick. Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA, June 2017. Photo by Byron Chin.

When most people picture gulls, they think of gray and white birds squawking while soaring at the seashore, possibly also trying to steal food from beachgoers. While hanging out at the shore and pilfering food is surely part of the gull lifestyle, gulls are a wildly diverse group of birds with lots of different and fascinating behaviors! Here are just a few:


Bonaparte’s Gull: The only tree-nesting gull
While all other gulls nest on the ground, on rooftops, or on rocky outcroppings, the Bonaparte’s gull builds its nest in the branches of conifers in Canada and Alaska. Instead of wandering around on the ground like other young gulls do, their chicks stay in the nest until they’re ready to fledge. A picture of a Bonaparte’s gull in its nest can be found here: https://www.arkive.org/bonapartes-gull/larus-philadelphia/image-G120205.html

Bonaparte’s gull in non-breeding plumage. Don Edwards NWR, Fremont, CA, January 2013. Photo by Byron Chin.

Swallow-tailed gull: The only nocturnal gull
While most gulls are diurnal, or active during the day, the swallow-tailed gull does all its hunting at night. This gull is endemic to the Galápagos islands, and its preferred food is squid. It makes sense that the swallow-tailed gull is nocturnal, as squid come to the surface of the water at night, where the gull can get at them (since gulls can’t dive well at all). The swallow-tailed gull has particularly large eyes to help it see better at night, and it has a white tip to its black bill, to help the chicks find it when they feed at night. This gull spends most of its day resting, and it has a white ‘eye spot’ on its lower eyelid, so from a distance you might think the bird is awake when really it is sleeping.

Swallow-tailed gull, Española Island, Galápagos, July 2016. Note the very large eye and light bill tip, both adaptations to its nocturnal lifestyle. Photo by Byron Chin.

Sleeping swallow-tailed gull, Española Island, Galápagos, July 2016. Note the eyespot on the lower eyelid – you might think this gull is awake and watching you, but it’s not! Photo by Byron Chin.

Heermann’s gull: Likes to steal a meal
Heermann’s gulls are renowned kleptoparasites: that is, they derive a large portion of their diet from fish they steal from other birds, usually brown pelicans. If you’re ever lucky enough to see a brown pelican plunge-diving for food off the California coast in the fall or wintertime, look closely: you’re liable to see Heermann’s gulls following them at close range. Sometimes they go so far as to land right on the pelican’s head, so they can reach into the pouch for a fish! Most gull species will steal food from another bird (or even another gull) given the opportunity, but some, like the Heermann’s gull, are particularly troublesome to other birds. The laughing gull also frequently kleptoparasitizes brown pelicans on the southern and eastern coasts of the USA.

Heermann’s gulls harassing brown pelicans, Half Moon Bay, CA, July 2017. Photo by Byron Chin.

Heermann’s gulls closing in on a brown pelican that just dove for fish. Crescent City, CA, September 2015. Photo by Byron Chin.

California gulls: A different kind of fly catcher
California gulls enjoy eating brine flies, but they aren’t really maneuverable enough to catch tiny flies on the wing. Fortunately for the California gull, brine flies tend to alight in large groups on salty marshland shores. The gulls will run along the shore at full speed with their beaks open, snapping up flies as they go! This is referred to as “ram feeding.”

California gull ram feeding on brine flies, Don Edwards NWR, Fremont, CA, September 2012. Photo by Byron Chin.

Starfish strategists
Large white-headed gulls are important predators of starfish here on the West Coast. They have two general strategies for eating these echinoderms. When they encounter a large starfish, gulls are more likely to flip it over and peck and tear at its underside. They have also been noted to take advantage of the starfish’s tendency to shed arms when attacked. A gull will bash the starfish against the ground until it breaks off all the arms, then swallow the arms and center separately. For smaller starfish, a gull might pick up the entire starfish and cram two or three arms into its bill. It will then push the remaining arms together with its gape as it forces the starfish into its mouth, making it into a compact rectangular shape that the gull eventually swallows. Different strategies, but same result: gulls are a major predator of starfish along the west coast.

First cycle Western gull pecking at a starfish. Monterey, CA, December 2013. Photo by Byron Chin.

Olympic gull cramming a starfish into its bill. Crescent City, CA, September 2015. Photo by Byron Chin.

Western gull taking off with the center of a broken-apart starfish. Monterey, CA, February 2018. Photo by Byron Chin.

 

Opposites attract
As if identifying gulls weren’t challenging enough, with many species looking similar and multiple plumages within a species, they like to hybridize. One of the most common hybrids on the west coast is the Olympic gull: this is a hybrid between Western and glaucous-winged gulls. They are large birds with characteristics between the two: they’ve got pink to orange orbital rings (ring of colored flesh around the eye), speckled heads during winter, gray backs that are lighter than Western but darker than glaucous-winged gulls, and wingtips that are darker than their backs. Other gull hybrids found elsewhere in the USA are the Cook Inlet gull (glaucous-winged x herring), Great Lakes gull (great black backed gull x herring), and the Appledore gull (lesser black-backed gull x herring). There have even been hybrids between the laughing gull and ring-billed gull; two medium-sized gull species that look little alike, but do occasionally hybridize!

 

Olympic gull, Half Moon Bay, CA, March 2018. Photo by Byron Chin. Note the lighter back than the Western gulls below and the wingtips that are darker than the back, both characteristic of Olympic gulls.

 

Laughing gull x Ring-billed gull hybrid, Calumet Park; March 6 2011. Photo courtesy of Amar Ayyash.

 

Appledore gull, Florida, January. Photo courtesy of Amar Ayyash.

 

Cook inlet gull, Tukwila, WA. December 30, 2011. Photo courtesy of Amar Ayyash.

 

Great Lakes gull, Lake County, Illinois. 03 January 2018. Photo courtesy of Amar Ayyash.

 

Home is where the gull is
Most gulls exhibit strong nest site fidelity; that is, they nest in the same spot year after year, particularly if they’ve been successful in previous years. They also exhibit strong pair bonds, with the vast majority of gulls mating for life, so long as both partners are still alive. Gulls have also been known to form same-sex pairs, with female-female pairs often raising chicks! This happens because gulls have a fairly high rate of “extra-pair copulations,” that is, while they maintain the pair bond with their chosen partner, they’ll sometimes mate with another bird. This helps keep genetic diversity high while maintaining all the benefits of stable pair bonds. If you frequent an area where gulls nest, pay attention: odds are very good that you will notice nests in the same spots year after year. If you do, it’s very likely you’ll be seeing the same individual birds year after year as well!

 

We have been watching this Western gull family nest every year in the same exact spot since 2013. Here they are with young chicks in June 2013. San Francisco, CA. Photo by Byron Chin.

 

Here they are with young chicks again in June 2017. Photo by Byron Chin.

 

They even hold their territory when it isn’t nesting season. Here they are doing the “choking” display, where they puff out their necks and point their bills at a spot they’d like to nest while making a low-pitched sound. This is, not surprisingly, exactly the spot where they build their nest each and every year. San Francisco, December 2017. Photo by Byron Chin.

 

One good preen deserves another
When a bird cleans its feathers with its beak, this is known as preening. When one bird preens another, this is called allopreening. Allopreening serves both a social and a practical purpose: it is used to reinforce social bonds, and it also helps birds preen their head feathers and remove lice, which is difficult for a bird to do by itself. Interestingly, small gulls tend to allopreen, but the large white-headed gulls such as Western, glaucous-winged, and herring gulls, do not. They have on occasion been observed foraging for parasites on the feathers of another bird, but this is not the same as allopreening. The bird being foraged upon in these situations typically finds the other gull to be an unwelcome annoyance, whereas allopreening is an enjoyable activity for both birds involved. No one quite knows why large white-headed gulls don’t seem to allopreen, but it’s fun to watch the smaller gulls engage in this behavior.

 

A pair of California Gulls and their two chicks at the Baylands. The male is giving the female a nice preen. Photo by Byron Chin.

 

Swallow-tailed gull allopreening her chick. Española Island, Galápagos, July 2016. Photo by Byron Chin.

 

A Swallow-tailed Gull preening her mate on Isla Espanola. Photo by Byron Chin.

 

Hatch-year red-billed gull allopreening its sibling. Dunedin, New Zealand, December 2017. Photo by Byron Chin.

 

Dance, dance!
Going around with gulls “dancing,” that is, tapping their feet quickly on the ground. The gulls aren’t really dancing, what they are doing is paddling for worms, also known as worm charming. There are a couple of theories as to why this works. Some believe the vibrations mimic the movement of a digging mole, a major predator of earthworms, so when the worms feel the vibration they come to the surface to escape. Others think the tapping of the gulls’ feet mimics rain, and worms naturally surface when it rains. Either way, gulls have figured this out, and many species perform this foot-tapping behavior. When the worms do surface, the gulls eat them. The New Zealand Department of Conservation has a wonderful video of red-billed gulls paddling for worms here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgw-Z0NQsW0

Now that you know some of the strange and wonderful things gulls do, keep an eye out next time you’re in an area they frequent! You never know what you might see these intelligent and beautiful seabirds do.

March 20, 2018

Birding the Napa River with International Bird Rescue and Sierra Club’s Solano Group: A Flyway Festival Outing

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Editor’s Note: This piece was prepared by Sierra Club trip leader, Phil Kohlmetz.

International Bird Rescue’s Executive Director, JD Bergeron, leads a group of nature enthusiasts on a birding walk.

On Saturday, February 10, 2018, International Bird Rescue collaborated with the Sierra Club for a special birding experience in conjunction with the 2018 Flyway Festival (an annual celebration of migratory birds traveling through the San Francisco Bay Area).

The walk was a rare chance to participate in a program led by Bird Rescue’s own Executive Director JD Bergeron. He partnered with passionate naturalist, veteran backpacker, and local Sierra Club trip leader, Phil Kohlmetz. The two led a dozen people on a guided walk along the Napa River in American Canyon, CA, not far from our San Francisco Bay Area/Delta Wildlife Center. The location was special to Bird Rescue, as we often release rehabilitated birds at this very location.

The group walked 4 miles along the levees of the Napa River Bay Trail. (Quite far for many birders!) JD shared his love and deep knowledge of migratory aquatic birds, songbirds, and raptors, noting over 60 different species. Phil highlighted local environmental restoration efforts, as this area was once home to an active landfill, as well as a massive salt harvesting operation. In addition, Phil talked about local efforts to create a regional park district to administer and further protect this sensitive and restored habitat.

Participants included experienced birders and current supporters of International Bird Rescue, Solano County residents, Sierra Club members, first-time birders, and long-time naturalists. The mix of skill and interest levels meant lots of opportunities for education and cross-pollination. While the focus was certainly on bird identification, we discussed other natural processes such as reclamation, plant succession, and avian migration.

Programs like this are a great example of the types of partnerships that Bird Rescue is developing as we put our new mission (inspiring stewardship of our global waters by rescuing and protecting aquatic birds) into practice.

Follow our social media feed and our website for upcoming opportunities to participate directly with Bird Rescue’s public education programs:
www.bird-rescue.org.

March 19, 2018

International Bird Rescue Co-Hosts NWRA Symposium 2018

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Center Manager, Kylie Clatterbuck, led an informative presentation and lab on Waterproofing and Protective wraps. Participants were able to practice applying protective wraps to various types of aquatic birds and learn how to examine such birds during waterproofing checks. Photo by Angie Trumbo

The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association held their 2018 “Partnering for Wildlife” Symposium in Anaheim, CA during the first week of March. International Bird Rescue was proud to Co-Host the event along with Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network and California Wildlife Center. Staff and volunteers spent many hours preparing presentations, labs, special events and entertainment for the symposium. Those hours were invested well, as “Partnering for Wildlife” was a huge success!

The NWRA symposium was a wonderful opportunity for wildlife rehabilitators to network, share their experiences, and learn a wealth of new information from other organizations and experts. Bird Rescue was fortunate to have many staff and volunteers involved with the event being held so close to home.

The 2018 symposium truly was an event of partnership, from the collaboration of the host organizations to the cooperative seminars that were held throughout the conference. Bird Rescue Operations Manager, Julie Skoglund, and Veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr worked with representatives from Bird Ally X, Focus Wildlife, Oiled Wildlife Care Network, and Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research to hold an all-day Oiled Wildlife Seminar on rehabilitating oiled birds – from intake to release. The team gave presentations and led discussion groups to help teach participants about the complexities of caring for oiled wildlife. The process involves far more than simply removing the oil, and topics included stabilization, nutritional needs, the importance of blood values, waterproofing, and release conditioning in addition to the wash process. The seminar leaders were all able to share their knowledge and experience by going over case examples from their various locations. Bird Rescue was honored to work alongside these groups to help improve the care of oiled wildlife across our nation.

Dr. Duerr also worked alongside several other wildlife veterinarians and California Department of Fish and Wildlife to teach an all-day seminar for licensed Veterinarians and Veterinary Technicians to learn skills needed to treat wildlife patients in private practice and the related rules and regulations. Dr. Duerr also gave a talk on the harmful algal bloom that affected so many of our loon patients last spring, plus lecture and labs on avian anatomy and necropsy.

 

March 15, 2018

Founder of Bird Rescue Celebrates 81 Years of Inspired Living

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Alice Berkner releases a Commun Murre

In 1971, when she was just 34 years old, Alice Berkner did something that had never been done before: she faced down the seemingly impossible task of rescuing and protecting 7,000 wild birds that had been contaminated in a massive oil spill near the Golden Gate Bridge.

The plight of these birds inspired Alice, along with a handful of concerned volunteers, to do everything they could to save them. The work they did together became foundation of International Bird Rescue, which now has worked nearly 250 spills around the world.

Today, we continue to take inspiration from Alice’s example and we endeavor to bring new solutions to the seemingly impossible:

Alice Berkner with a Long-tailed Duck

  • In January 2015, we rescued over 300 birds contaminated with a “mystery goo”, bringing our crisis response experience to a non-oil spill challenge.
  • In September 2015, we took in over 500 starving and ill common murres from the Pacific Coast, seemingly the victims of changing ocean temperatures which may have been caused by humans.
  • We are currently conducting a study into better treatments for typical wounds seen in seabirds to improve their survival chances.

We have expanded our mission beyond oil spills to all areas that impact wild birds, particularly urban wildlife conflict, fishing line & fish hooks, orphaning caused by habitat disturbance, and other large-scale crises. We aim to inspire stewardship of our global waters–both marine and fresh–by continuing Alice’s legacy of rescuing and protecting the birds that live, swim, and feed there.

It all comes down to a basic premise: birds and all wildlife have as much right to this planet as we humans do, and we owe whatever advantages we can provide in exchange for the new challenges we have introduced.

Please join me in celebrating Alice Berkner, her contributions to a cleaner and more just world, and to the message of hope that she has given us by donating to raise a $1,000 or more together!