Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Posts Tagged ‘Brown Pelican’

May 9, 2010

Day Nine: Gulf spill wildlife update: 5 oiled birds

On the ninth day of the Gulf Oil Spill wildlife response, International Bird Rescue continues to work with Tri-State Bird Rescue, the lead oiled wildlife organization, to staff rehabilitation centers in Louisiana, Alabama Mississippi and Florida. IBRRC’s Jay Holcomb checks in with his daily update on the wildlife response:

On May 8 we sent out 6 field teams, under the direction of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, to continue to look for oiled birds. Only some spotty oiled gulls have been sighted so far. No new oiled birds have been recovered. The 4 live birds in care at Ft. Jackson, LA and the one live bird in Pensacola, FL are all doing well. 

Here are the latest bird numbers:

Fort Jackson, Louisiana Oiled Bird Rehabilitation Center

4 live oiled birds

* 2 brown pelicans
* 1 northern gannet
* 1 green heron

3 dead oiled birds

* 2 northern gannets
* 1 magnificent frigatebird

Pensacola, Floria Oiled Bird Rehabilitation Center

1 live oiled bird

* 1 northern gannet

Thanks again for your continued interest in our efforts,

– Jay Holcomb, Executive Director, International IBRRC

The bird rescue group has 16 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

There are now four Oiled Bird Rescue Centers in Fort Jackson, Louisiana, Theodore, Alabama, Gulfport, Mississippi and Pensacola, Florida.

Accredited media staff can visit the Fort Jackson, LA rescue center any day from 1 pm to 2 pm. It’s located at MSRC:, 100 Herbert Harvey Drive, Buras, LA 100 Herbert Harvey Drive, Buras, Louisiana.

The oil spill involves a ruptured drilling platform approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded on April 20, 2010 and sank in 5,000 feet of water. More than 100 workers scrambled off the burning rig in lifeboats. 11 workers are missing and presumed dead.

The ocean floor crude rupture is now gushing at least 5,000 barrels — or 210,000 gallons — of oil a day. While engineers work feverishly to cap the well, many officials worry the leak could go on for months.

(Photos above: Top: Oiled Brown Pelican is stabilized before washing at the Fort Jackson; interior shot of inside of the Louisiana Oiled Bird Rehabilitation Center, middle, wash area and bird pens in background)

May 9, 2010

Birds we care about: The Brown Pelican

Brown-Pelican-Tom-Grey-Photo- copy

Brown Pelican: Photo by Tom Grey

Here at IBRRC we love the Brown Pelican. It’s part of our logo and we pride ourselves in treating this bird with the respect and care it deserves.

Since its beginning in 1971, IBRRC has worked hard to become the premier brown pelican rehabilitation organization on the west coast of the United States.

At both our centers in California, with the help of our individual and foundation supporters, we constructed 100-foot flight aviaries to help pelicans recuperate from sickness and injury. We’ve had remarkable success in treating and then releasing them back to the wild.

Earlier this year, both of our centers were inundated with these majestic birds. In three months we treated almost 600 of the pelicans after severe storms walloped California. The wet, sick and dying pelicans flooded into IBRRC centers after heavy rains and pollution from run-off that hit the California coast in early January 2010.

And we always liked this famous poem about one our favorite birds:

A rare old bird is the pelican;
His bill holds more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week;
I’m darned if I know how the helican.
                               – Dixon Merritt

As we respond to the Gulf oil spill we hope the pelicans stay out of harms way. If they don’t, we will be there in force to help them in a speedy recovery.

Photo of Brown Pelican courtesy Tom Grey

May 8, 2010

Day 8 Gulf Oil Spill Update: 4 oiled birds in care

It’s day eight of IBRRC’s Gulf Oil Spill response and Executive Director Jay Holcomb, has his daily update:

Yesterday we had 5 capture teams in the field working with US Fish & Wildlife. They were able to make it as far east as Gossier Island, the Breton Islands and some of the Chandelier Islands. A few oiled gulls and pelicans were sighted but those birds had only spots of oil on their bellies. They were flighted and looked good. 

The teams did see oil at the shore of the Chandelier Islands and birds in the area. The rest of the team broke up and looked westward at the outer islands of the Pass-A-Loutre Wildlife Management Area and did not discover any oiled wildlife other than a few laughing gulls with small spots of oil on them.

Six teams are out again today looking in different areas for oiled birds.

We received one oiled green heron at Fort Jackson, LA center that had landed on a boat near the oiled area. The bird is in good health and has already been washed.

The other centers in Theodore, Alabama, Gulfport, Mississippi and Pensacola, Florida are still on alert and the staff is continuing to build cages and prepare for the potential impact of birds.

Here are the latest bird numbers:

Fort Jackson, Louisiana Oiled Bird Rehabilitation Center

3 live oiled birds 

  • 1 brown pelican
  • 1 northern gannet
  • 1 green heron (came in yesterday)

3 dead oiled birds

  • 2 northern gannets
  • 1 magnificent frigatebird (came in yesterday)

Pensacola, Floria Oiled Bird Rehabilitation Center

1 live oiled bird 

  • 1 northern gannet

Thanks for all your support,

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC

International Bird Rescue is working with the main responder, Tri-State Bird Rescue of Delaware. IBRRC has 16 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

There are now four Oiled Bird Rescue Centers in Fort Jackson, Louisiana, Theodore, Alabama, Gulfport, Mississippi and Pensacola, Florida.

Accredited Media are welcome to visit the Fort Jackson, LA rescue center any day from 1 pm to 2 pm. It’s located at MSRC, 100 Herbert Harvey Drive, Buras, LA.

May 8, 2010

Louisiana Pelicans in Peril: CBS New Video report


Scientists are racing against time to save endangered pelicans along the Gulf of Mexico coast who are now threatened by the massive BP oil spill. CBS News special correspondent Jeff Corwin reports from Venice, LA.

Watch more CBS News Videos Online

May 7, 2010

Day 7 Gulf OIl Spill Response Update

On day seven of our Gulf Oil Spill response, Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s executive director checks in with an update:

On May 6th we did not receive any new oiled birds. We sent out four teams of search and collection people who searched the outer island reaches of the Mississippi delta area. The region is known as the Pass-A-Loutre Wildlife Management Refuge. The teams saw hundreds of clean brown pelicans, terns, cormorants, gulls and shorebirds and only one pelican with a spot of oil on its belly and one tern with a spot of oil on it. 

Today there are 5 capture teams made up of IBRRC/Tri-State people, plus government wildlife officials. We are pushing to look more to the east where the oil is coming to shore but we are under the direction of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and they call the shots. I will keep everyone informed as we receive other information and birds.

As many of you know, I have been put in charge of media here in Fort Jackson. I am fine with that but its a full time job. We have had press from all over the world and they have been great.

Yesterday we also filmed with Animal Planet’s Jeff Corwin who is doing some reporting on the Gulf Oil Spill

With that I will sign off. More tomorrow.

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC

IBRRC now has 16 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

There are now four Oiled Bird Rescue Centers in Fort Jackson, Louisiana, Theodore, Alabama, Gulfport, Mississippi and Pensacola, Florida.

Accredited media and press are welcome to visit the Fort Jackson rescue center daily from 1 PM to 2 PM: MSRC, 100 Herbert Harvey Drive, Buras, Louisiana.

See map below:

View Larger Map

May 5, 2010

Day 6: Pelican washed; Response team grows

On the sixth day of the Gulf Oil Spill response, additional International Bird Rescue response team members has been activated, a brown pelican was successfully washed and we continue to assist Tri-State Bird Rescue in the set up of three more wildlife care centers.

Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s Executive Director, is writing a daily update from Louisiana. Here’s the day six update:

On Monday we washed the brown pelican that was captured yesterday. It was caught on Storm Island, on a small remote island in the outer barrier islands of the Mississippi Delta. I was told that there were other oiled pelicans seen but were not catchable at this point. We have still not been allowed to go out to these islands to look for birds. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is heading up the retrieval of oiled birds and there have been delays. However, we were able to get our search and capture teams activated for the first time today and are now out in the field looking for birds.

The brown pelican that was washed did great and took about 40 minutes to complete. We washed the bird during our 1 to 2 pm daily press conference and this allowed them to get some visuals on the bird. The press was cooperative and supportive of our work.

The other three centers are coming on line and they do not have any birds at this time. Tri-State and IBRRC staff continue to work diligently to bring these centers on line. DAWN has sent many cases of detergent to these three facilities and these will be shared with the turtle and mammal response groups as needed. The sea turtle and mammal response effort is being organized and managed by Dr. Mike Ziccardi of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network whom IBRRC works closely with in California.

IBRRC now has 16 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

As many of you know, IBRRC has responded to many oil spills over the years but have never experienced something like this where the spill seems to mostly be sitting in one large area and slowly moving back and forth at the mercy of the tides and weather. Although we know it is close to some shorelines it still has not hit the shore heavily in any area. Pelicans, terns and other plunge feeding birds are the most at risk as they will plunge into water to catch prey.

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC

There are now Oiled Bird Rescue Centers in Fort Jackson, Louisiana, Theodore, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida.

Accredited media and press are welcome to visit the Fort Jackson rescue center daily from 1 PM to 2 PM: MSRC, 100 Herbert Harvey Drive, Buras, Louisiana.

See map below:


View Larger Map

May 4, 2010

Day 5: Weather still hampering search for oiled birds

It’s the fifth day of Gulf oil spill response and International Bird Rescue is working quickly with Tri-State Bird Rescue, to staff and set up and wildlife care centers in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.

IBRRC’s Executive Director, Jay Holcomb, is writing daily updates from the epicenter of the wildlife rescue. Here’s his day five oil spill update:

Hello everyone. I have been in Venice Louisiana for five days and finally have email access. I wanted to write a brief note to all the people who have wished us well, supported IBRRC and are watching the news as the spill in the gulf of Mexico progresses.

The weather has really hampered attempts to initiate a search and collection effort for oiled birds. As soon as the storm subsides and the safety officers decide that it is safe to go out looking for oiled birds then we will commence with that program.

IBRRC and Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research Inc. are not in charge of the wildlife collection program. It’s being managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). However, IBRRC and Tri-State are providing trained and experienced personnel to help with this effort. Six of our capture teams are currently on site and more are coming in the next few days. We hope to start going out in the field tomorrow.

On Monday, May 3, we received the second oiled bird. It was a Brown Pelican that was picked up in one of the remote islands in Southern Louisiana by the USFWS. The bird is in good condition. (See photo ^above^)

Many people have asked how we organize and manage a spill of this magnitude. It is impossible for one organization to attempt to manage the oiled wildlife rehabilitation program that incorporates four states, large quantities of oil and vast areas of shoreline. Because of this, Tri-state and IBRRC have once again joined forces and combined our individual oiled wildlife response teams into one larger team capable of handling a large spill such as this one.

Between both the organizations we have responded to about 400 oil spills. In this case Tri-State is taking the lead role and IBRRC is working in tandem with them to help provide oversight for the rehabilitation program.

In 2005 we worked together in the same area in Venice, Louisiana and cared for over 200 baby oiled pelicans that were oiled after a pipeline broke and crude oil was strewn over one of the islands in the Breton Island National Refuge during Tropical Storm Arlene. We have also partnered on many other spills in the U.S. and in other countries.

I will keep you all updated as we move ahead in this oil spill.

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC

January 26, 2010

IBRRC takes stock of pelican storm casualties

As of today, IBRRC’s Los Angeles Center has now received a total of 130 non-oiled birds since the beginning of last week’s storms. 107 of these birds were pelicans. In addition, 9 oiled birds from natural seep and 6 oiled birds from the spill in Huntington Beach have been received.

The center is shutting its doors to pelicans and other birds being transferred from other wildlife centers for the next 48 hours to help cope with the influx of wildlife casualties.

IBRRC’s San Francisco Bay Center has now received 50 pelicans and expect another 20 in the coming days. A number of ducks (including buffleheads and canvasbacks) have also arrived, some that have been shot and others downed by the storms.

We will be trying our best to keep updating these numbers.

Media report:

KTLA-TV: Hundreds of Pelicans Rescued After Latest Storms

October 23, 2009

American Trader Oil Spill Survivor: Pelican Found Alive 19 Years Later

Note: On Feburary 7, 1990 the oil tanker American Trader, just a mile off Huntington Beach, CA, ran over its own anchor, puncturing its hull. It leaked 400,000 gallons of crude into marine waters causing the death of thousands of seabirds. The spill cleanup forced a the three-week closure of 15 miles of Orange County coastline.

Dear friends and supporters,

We want to share with you some exciting news about a pelican that was spotted last month in Southern California. The Brown Pelican was one of many that IBRRC rehabilitated in 1990 during the American Trader oil spill in Huntington Beach, CA. This rare and invaluable band encounter and live bird sighting was observed September 27th, 2009 in Long Beach, CA.

What was also significant was that this was an adult pelican when we originally received it for washing and rehabilitation which means that the bird was at least 4 years old at the time. This means that the bird is now over 23 years old and one of the oldest rehabilitated oiled birds on record. It was also one of the birds that was used in a post release study done during that oil spill where 31 of the rehabilitated brown pelicans were fitted with radio transmitters on their backs.

Below are excerpts from an email sent to us by brown pelican biologist and authority, Dan Anderson, regarding this exciting sighting:

Well folks, the pelican 609-11405 was indeed a REHABILITATED individual released with one of our radios on it, released by IBRRC at Terminal Island on 26 February 1990. Thus, it was a 19-year survivor from getting oiled and then cleaned by IBRRC, and at least 23 years old when Robb picked up on it (likely older). Congratulations Jay on the REHAB success! It was a full adult when oiled (therefore at least 4+ years old) and at the time of banding and likely a medium-sized male, but in very good condition at release (4.8 kg = “huge” and fat), 35.5 cm culmen. Its IBRRC number was R-318. Overall results were reported in our 1996 paper and this bird was considered still-alive at the end of the study. Obviously, it went on to become quite successful, at least in surviving.

On longevity, this is an oldie, although Frank and I have an unpublished account of an Anacapa individual that survived more than 40 years. It’s a complex story, however, and we haven’t written anything up yet. I also collected an 18+ year old on one of the colonies (San Lorenzo Sur) in the early-1980s that had been one of three birds caught one night at the Farallon Islands in CA. Given the something like 20,000 BRPE banded by Frank Gress and I over the years,we will start looking at BRPE demographics in the future. I think we have been at it long enough now to be able to develop some life-tables (also working on some alternative techniques to compare to banding studies). Lots to do and so little time.

– Dan Anderson, Professor Emeritus, Wildlife Biologist, UC Davis 10/20/09

For many years IBRRC and our colleagues in the field of oiled wildlife rehabilitation and response have studied the post survival of oiled birds that have been rehabilitated. More and more studies are being done now but one of the ways that we have consistently, although sporadically, received information about released oiled birds is when we receive leg band encounters. All oiled, rehabilitated birds are federally banded upon release.

Found a banded Pelican? Report it through the Bird Rescue website

Thanks for your continued support,

Jay Holcomb, Executive Director, IBRRC

September 4, 2009

Lucy the Pelican to be released at Blue Film Festival

A pelican release event is planned for September 4, 2009 at 12:30 PM as part of the Blue Planet Film Festival`s “Animal Day” festivities. The rehabilitated adult female Brown Pelican will be returned to the wild at the beach next to the Santa Monica Pier.

In August, Lucy became trapped in a pile of discarded fishing line with a large hook embedded in her left wing in some bushes near Ballona Creek, California. Fortunately a quick thinking, compassionate hiker rescued Lucy and immediately brought her to IBRRC`s center in San Pedro, California where she immediately received treatment for severe bruises and a serious infection.

Lucy has fully recovered and is now flying from perch to perch in the Center`s recovery aviary. Lucy and several of her Pelican friends with similar stories have been successfully nursed back to health by the IBRRC staff and are ready to return to their homes in the waters off the California coast.

“Lucy is one of the lucky ones,” said Jay Holcomb, IBRRC`s Executive Director. “Thanks to the dedicated hiker who rescued her, she arrived at our facility in time to save her. Although she was quite stressed and needed immediate medical attention, our staff was ready to treat Lucy and ultimately restore her to full health.”

About the International Bird Rescue Research Center

International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) was founded in 1971 after the Oregon Standard collided with another ship under the Golden Gate Bridge, which resulted in a massive spill of crude oil that covered over 7,000 birds. Since then, IBRRC has responded to over 200 national and international spills including the Exxon Valdez, Cosco Busan and Treasure Oil Spill in South Africa. The IBRRC is the world leader in aquatic bird rehabilitation, oiled bird rescue and rehabilitation and the management of oiled wildlife efforts during an oil spill. IBRRC’s mission is to mitigate the human impact on aquatic birds and other wildlife, worldwide. This is achieved through emergency response, rehabilitation, education, research and planning.

For additional information on how to volunteer or donate to the IBRRC, please visit www.ibrrc.org.

February 13, 2009

Great little movie of Brown Pelican rescue

People send us the nicest things:

“I am a local (Venice based) film director. The other day I was shooting on the beach and I got some great footage of a sick pelican and his subsequent rescue by one of your volunteers.

I edited together a little one minute film I thought might be useful for you and your cause.”

Tao Ruspoli in Southern California took this video and sent it to us after seeing a [adult, winter plumage] pelican in distress. A member of the Marine Wildlife Rescue team scoops up the bird and takes it to IBRRC’s San Pedro bird center for treatment.

Thanks Tao for creating this great Public Service announcement (PSA).

February 9, 2009

State moves Pelican off Endangered Species List

On February 5, 2009, the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to remove the Brown Pelican from the list species considered to be endangered by the State of California.

This marks the first endangered species that has ever been deemed by the state to have recovered. The delisting and acknowledgement of success with this species is a significant conservation achievement for California, the United States and all involved.

We at IBRRC are delighted that their numbers have rebounded and their appearance along our coast is once again a common occurrence. However, we remain apposed to this delisting as the California Brown Pelican. As an indicator species, this pelican is still highly vulnerable to oil spills, domoic acid events, exposure to botulism at the Salton Sea and the constant pollution that they encounter on a daily basis.

To make matters worse, pelicans are also frequent victims of fishing tackle entanglements, direct cruelty situations, changes in food supply (fish), mysterious situations like the recent events during the last few months.

We believe that it was premature to delist this species until their population has time to mature as a population and fully reestablish itself fully within its range.

In the 1960s Brown Pelicans nearly went extinct due to the use of DDT, a pesticide. During that time biologists discovered the only remaining colony of California brown pelicans nesting on the Anacapa Islands (off Southern California) weren’t successfully reproducing. In 1970, there were 550 nests and only one chick survived; the California Brown Pelican was put on the federal Endangered Species list.

See: Endangered Brown Pelicans face uncertain future

January 9, 2009

Pelican test results: 3 out of 6 have toxin in system

This afternoon we received results from initial domoic acid tests which indicate some levels of domoic acid in the pelicans. While 3 out of the 6 birds tested were positive for domoic acid, we cannot conclude that the neurotoxin is the primary cause of the widespread illness. See more on our website

Samples of phytoplankton collected recently from the waters off of Santa Barbara to Newport Beach were also tested. 5 out of 14 samples indicated very low concentrations.

These are the first of many test results expected. Additional blood and tissue samples are being tested and we anticipate more information within the next two weeks.

“We are very appreciative of the rapid test results from the Dave Caron Lab at USC. We believe these results are significant but do not explain all the signs we are seeing in the pelicans. We are seeing a number of conditions that are not typical of domoic acid toxicity or a domoic acid event. Therefore, we are continuing to collect and test samples, keeping an open mind and considering all possibilities,” according to Dr. Heather Nevill, DVM, IBRRC’s veterinarian leading the groups investigation.

Due to the great distribution of ailing pelicans (Baja to WA), and the fact that most of the pelicans are thin, as opposed to being of good body weight (typical in a domoic acid event), this indicates to us that domoic acid is likely playing a secondary role to a larger problem.

We will keep everyone apprised as information comes in.

To locate the nearest rescue organization or to report dead pelicans the public is encouraged to phone the California wildlife hotline 866-WILD-911. To date we have recorded 265 reports of dead or ailing pelicans from Baja California, Mexico to WA with over 100 brown pelicans receiving treatment.

How to help

Adopt-a-Pelican

Donate online

Sign-up to volunteer your time

January 6, 2009

What’s causing fatigued pelicans to drop from sky?

The ongoing discovery of scores of fatigued and disoriented California Brown Pelicans is causing concern among biologists and bird lovers, but yielding few concrete answers to what’s causing their condition.

Since late in December, the giant seabirds have been found in frail condition along highways and backyards, miles from their coastal homes. At both IBRRC bird centers, but especially at the San Pedro center, we’ve had our hands full treating these remarkable birds. There are almost 50 pelicans in care this week alone.

Writer Louis Sahagun and photographer Mark Boster of the Los Angeles Times collaborated to capture the concern for these pelicans:

Wildlife rescuers from San Diego to San Francisco suddenly are facing a distressing biological mystery: Disoriented and bruised California brown pelicans are landing on highways and airport runways and in farm fields, alleys and backyards miles from their normal coastal haunts.

In the last week, the big brown birds known for flying in formation over beaches have been reported wobbling across Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey and on a Los Angeles International Airport runway. Two dead pelicans were found on the 110 Freeway. Elsewhere, one smacked into a car.

See: California brown pelicans found frail and far from home

View: The LA Times photo gallery

Learn how you can help us care for these birds: Adopt-a-Pelican

September 26, 2008

Reward now at $20,000 for info on pelican attacks

The reward has been increased to $20,000 for information leading to an arrest of the person involved in the brutal attack on nearly a dozen pelicans earlier this month along the coastline of Orange County, CA.

At least 11 California Brown Pelicans suffering from severe wing injuries washed up on Bolsa Chica State Beach between September 15th and September 17th. Seven of the Pelicans were found dead by lifeguards. Four surviving birds were transferred to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, CA.

“The one surviving Pelican is doing well” said Debbie McGuire, Wildlife Director at Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center. “She is eating well, perching well and her weight is up. She is still not flapping, though.”

These Pelicans were young females; three juveniles and one sub-adult. Of these four birds, one is alive with a hopeful prognosis. With the exception of the surviving bird, all the Pelicans had compound fractures of the radius and ulna. “The breaks were horrific; the wings were snapped backward, and the last bird that came into the Wildlife Center had 3-4” of bone projecting from both wings” says Lisa Birkle, Assistant Wildlife Director of the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center.

“In my opinion, these injuries appear to be intentional. This does not naturally happen to eleven birds in the span of three days,” said Birkle. “We have never had this many similar injuries in this short an amount of time, 11 on the same beach”.

Several agencies have partnered to increase the reward fund as they realize the seriousness of this type of animal abuse. The agencies involved are Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, Found Animals Foundation, Bolsa Chica Land Trust and International Bird Rescue and Research Center (pledged by IBRRC Board Members, non-operating funds).

The reward fund is currently at $20,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever may be injuring these birds. To help raise this reward fund to larger levels, please contact IBRRC’s Jay Holcomb, [ e-mail: jay@ibrrc.org ].

Anyone with information relating to these incidents is encouraged to contact Special Agent Ed Newcomer of U.S. Fish and Wildlife at (310) 328-1516.

Media reports:

KCBS-TV: Reward Offer For Pelican Killer Raised To $20,000

LAist: Protecting our pelicans

KTLA_TV: 11 Pelicans Found Mutilated on Local Beach