Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Posts Tagged ‘update’

November 24, 2010

Year end update: Just two words: Thank you.

Dear Friend,

As I reflect on our accomplishments in the past year, I want to thank you for making this work possible through your continued support and encouragement.

Supporters like you are vital to keeping our rescue centers up and running – so that we can continue to save birds from all types of crises, maintain our ongoing research and training, and remain prepared to deploy at a moment’s notice in response to a massive emergency like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf.

During the months many of us were in the Gulf, supporters like you made it possible for us to continue all the other rescue work we do around the clock, every day – and there was plenty of it. Below are just some of the numbers that paint the picture of our ongoing work made possible through your support:

365 — days each year we are caring for oiled and injured birds at our two rescue centers in California.

— total number of birds treated at our rescue centers so far in 2010. The five most common species treated were: Mallards, Brown Pelicans, Black-Crowned Night Herons, Western Grebes, and Canada Geese.

2839 — number of Pacific birds admitted and treated at our two rescue centers in California between April 20 and September 30, during the height of the Gulf spill.

4 — number of smaller West Coast oil spills IBRRC responded to in 2010.

5 – the number of oiled birds received in the last week from natural seep along the California coast.

600 —number of critically ill pelicans treated by us following the heavy rains, flooding and pollution from run-off that hit the California coast in January 2010.

5 — pounds of fish consumed by a recovering pelican every day.

25,000+ — hours logged by IBRRC volunteers in 2010.

39 — number of years IBRRC has been rescuing and saving injured seabirds from crises. (That’s right, 2011 is our 40th anniversary!)*

24/7 — hours and days a week IBRRC is on-call for wildlife emergencies.

Again, I can’t thank you enough for helping to make this work possible. We truly could not do it without you.


Jay Holcomb, Executive Director
International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC)

*P. S. We look forward to keeping you updated on our plans to celebrate IBRRC’s 40th anniversary in the spring of 2011.

February 20, 2010

Staggering Number of Sick Brown Pelicans Flood Bird Rescue Centers

Hundreds of Brown Pelicans filled flight aviaries at both of Bird Rescue’s wildlife centers. Photo: International Bird Rescue

International Bird Rescue admitted a staggering 435 wet and sick California Brown Pelicans since January 1, 2010.

The good news is that more than 200 pelicans have been released back into the wild.

At our Los Angeles bird center, 101 live pelicans currently are in care. The San Francisco Bay center has approximately 20.

Wet, sick and dying pelicans have been flooding into Bird Rescue’s wildlife centers following the heavy rains, flooding and pollution from run-off that hit the California coast in early January 2010. As seabird specialists, Bird Rescue is doing its best to treat as many of these sick, cold and wet wildlife casualties at both of its California seabird rescue clinics.

The public has responded to our call for monetary help and donated supplies to assist this unprecedented rescue.

The influx of sick and starving pelicans garnered many media stories in 2010.

July 22, 2009

Outpouring of help for Dawn Wildlife Champions

Thanks to all the folks for signing up their purchased bottles of DAWN this month. As of today, nearly 10,000 people have registered online to help become a Dawn Wildlife Champions.

Each bottle of Dawn you purchase can contribute one dollar* to the important wildlife conservation efforts of the Marine Mammal Center and the International Bird Rescue Research Center.

If you’re interested in seeing how your state is doing go to the site and check the state by state donation counter. Texas still leads the online donations.

Otherwise, keep up the great work. We really appreciate your efforts!

*Up to $500,000 worth of donations.

February 11, 2009

California Brown Pelicans in distress: Event update

^Brown Pelican feet suffering from frostbite (IBRRC photo)

From Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s exceutive director:

I would like to provide you with an overview of what we know about the recent California Brown Pelican event that began in mid-December 2008 and slowed down in the last week or so.

I wish we were able to point to a single “smoking gun” but we are not. Instead I will provide you with what we know and what we don’t know and, like us, let you make your own decisions. One thing is for sure, this was an unusual event and there remain unanswered questions that we will pursue throughout the following months.

IBRRC received about 200 California Brown Pelicans between our two rehabilitation centers in San Pedro (Southern California) and Fairfield/Cordelia (Northern California) centers. Approximately 60 of them are still in rehabilitation and we have released over 75 already. We will provide the mortality and released numbers for a later date when all the birds are gone. Approximately 75% of these birds were what we call mature birds. That means that they are at least 3 years of age. This is when they get their “adult” plumage. The rest are a mixture of juvenile birds. Over 500 reportings of sick, dying and disoriented birds have been logged also.

Related: State moves Pelican off Endangered Species List

When we began to get calls about brown pelicans in distress in mid-December we noticed a few things that we had not experienced in all the years we have been rehabilitating brown pelicans:

1) Most of the birds reported were adults. It is not that unusual for IBRRC to see confused and inexperienced juveniles sometimes do silly things like land on roads etc. but typically not experienced and “proven” adults.

2) Many were acting disoriented, landing on highways, roads, airport runways, in yards, many miles inland, in higher altitudes and hiding under piers and in corners of coastal parking lots. When we usually get sick or injured brown pelicans they are most often found on beaches or near the water somewhere like fishing docks etc. and their problems are often visual like injuries or dehydrated appearance. So, their sporadic behavior in this event clued us in to something unusual happening.

3) Many of them were thin and in a weakened state.

4) We had never had a situation like this in mid-winter with brown pelicans.

5) Many had what appeared to be frost bite on their feet. (see pictures)

These were the clues that encouraged us to take action, contact the renowned pelican biologists; the media and our colleagues who could help provide some insight to why this occurred. We sent blood samples from some of the Southern California pelicans to the Dave Caron Lab at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California. We also send bodies of freshly diseased pelicans to the California Department of Fish & Game and The USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

Here is what we know so far:

1) The pelicans were negative for avian influenza.

2) The pelicans were negative for West Nile virus.

3) They did not have significant bacterial growth and no virus was evident. That would rule out anything that could be considered infectious at this time.

4) The necrotic tissue on feet and pouches is likely due to frostbite and not viral or bacterial in nature. These problems are most likely a result of a large number of birds getting caught in the cold snap that hit Oregon and Washington around Christmas.

5) Some of the birds in San Pedro did show low levels of domoic acid. From Dave Caron’s email, “we’ve now looked at samples from a total of 18 brown pelicans. Four were positive for domoic acid, but not at levels that we have seen during previous years during very toxic DA events in local waters. Our data continue to support our previous conjecture that domoic acid is playing a secondary, not primary, role in the present brown pelican mortality event.”

6) So far, histology to look for chronic domoic acid lesions have not shown anything unusual or evident.

7) If we get the birds in time they respond well to immediate fluid and nutritional therapy and as pelicans usually do in rehab, they eat well and gain their weight back.

So, some answers but still no smoking gun. There has been a lot of conjecture on what this is ultimately all about. We do know that California Brown Pelicans will travel north throughout California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia in the summer months and usually begin to head back south in large numbers in October. This year an estimated 4,000 or so brown pelicans stayed in Oregon and Washington until December when the very cold snap came. The weather changed drastically and quickly and, although not proven, is likely what caused the frostbite that we saw in a number of birds. This has occurred on the east coast in the past and birds have suffered similar problems with their feet and pouch.

They began moving south in large numbers very quickly and it’s likely that a mixture of cold weather, the physical stress of an immediate weather induced migration and possibly the reduction of fish due to water temperature changes could have all contributed to this event.

This still does not explain the disoriented behavior of many of these birds and that leads us to believe that there may be something else going on that we don’t know. As I said before, we are still looking at the situation more in depth and will report if and when we find any answers.

However, the question remains: Why did so many birds stay north longer than usual and why did the weather change so drastically, so quickly? Given the reports around the world of dramatic and unusual climate changes it is not inappropriate to connect this phenomenon to climate change but again, the science to support that hypothesis 100% is still not in so, again, its just a theory.

Our deepest gratitude to everyone who supported IBRRC’s efforts to care for these birds and our colleagues who helped capture, transport birds and those provided their medical and scientific expertise in an attempt to gain some answers.


Jay Holcomb
Director, IBRRC

Previous postings

Media steps up reports on Brown Pelican crisis

What’s causing fatigued pelicans to drop from sky?

December 23, 2008

Holiday greetings and 2008 update from IBRRC

From: Jay Holcomb, Executive Director of IBRRC:

Hi everyone. I wanted to wrap up the year by telling you what we are up to and just wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. To most people this time of year is a time for celebrating and being with family and friends. It is the same for us also but at IBRRC we spend a lot of time NOT talking about oil spills during the holidays hoping that if we don’t acknowledge them then they won’t happen. Instead we just keep our fingers crossed, hoping that an oil spill will not happen and we wont be called into action. It comes from years of sacrificing holidays to oil spills. Make no mistake, its an honor for us to care for the birds in an oil spill but it is rarely convenient and always difficult. That is why we call this time of the year our, “oil spill season”. It is the season that we see the most oil spills.

We have had some close calls so far this year and one spill that we responded to in Santa Barbara. A few weeks ago there was a spill in Santa Barbara and we responded as a participant organization of California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). Only 3 oiled birds, two grebes and one red throated loon, were captured and rehabilitated in the San Pedro center. Unfortunately the loon died but the two grebes survived and were released on December 18 in San Pedro.

On Friday, December 19, we were put on alert for a possible spill in San Pablo Bay. A tanker carrying about 272,500 barrels of diesel fuel grazed the bottom of Pinole Shoal Channel in the San Pablo Bay off the coast of Rodeo. Luckily there was no oil spilled but it did nothing for our already frayed nerves. It was a close one and frankly, I was really angry when I heard of this close call. Not because of the possible loss of our holidays but because it was just a year after the Cosco Busan spill and, once again, we were shown how vulnerable the San Francisco Bay is and how in one moment everything can change. There are literally hundreds of thousands of migrating birds, ducks, shorebirds, grebes and loons, using that section of the bay right now and a spill would have been disastrous to them. Fresh spilled diesel fuel is usually deadly to these animals and often burns the lungs of the birds as they breath the fumes. It also burns their sensitive skin. We experience our highest mortality rates with highly refined fuels such as diesel and jet fuels.

Its not always oil spills that we see this time of year. On Saturday we took in a beautiful male wild turkey who was the victim of a an intentional attack. This male turkey has regularly visited the yard of some Castro Valley residents for many years but for the last 6 weeks it showed up in the yard with an arrow through its body. The turkey is one member of a flock of turkeys that live in this neighborhood and are fed and supported by kind and compassionate individuals. Our colleagues and response team members, Duane and Rebecca Titus of WildRescue, worked diligently to design a special trap to capture the bird and bring it to our center for care. After weeks of working out the kinks they captured the bird on Saturday and brought it to our clinic in Cordelia. Shannon Riggs, our on site veterinarian who is provide to us through the OWCN, managed by the University of California at Davis, removed the arrow and cleaned its wounds. The arrow was shot with such force that it broke the femur in one leg and went through the other side of the birds body. X-rays and an exam indicated that the leg had healed. Although not perfect or straight, it was still healed. The bird remained at the center until today, December 22, when it was taken back to Castro Valley and released back into its flock. This Christmas turkey was one of the lucky ones.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to IBRRC over the last year. We are grateful and the animals have benefited from your generosity. Thank you!

With fingers crossed that we don’t experience an oily or busy holiday season, we at IBRRC wish you all a joyful Christmas, happy Hanukkah and abundant New Year.

December 11, 2008

Santa Barbara spill update: 3 oiled birds in care

According to the California’s Oiled Care Network (OWCN), three live oiled birds are now in care following the Sunday morning leak near a Santa Barbara Channel oil platform. (Photo above of Grebe: Erica Lander/IBRRC)

The birds are being treated at the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in San Pedro. IBRRC co-manages this center as a member of OWCN. This is the OWCN’s largest oiled bird response facility in Southern California.

Greg Massey, OWCN Assistant Director, says:

“The birds are being given supportive care (food, fluids, and supplemental heat). We’ll monitor blood tests, body temperature and weight to determine when they are stable enough to be cleaned. This is a critical time for the birds as they begin to regain strength and fight the external and internal effects of oiling.”

IBRRC has three staff members in the Santa Barbara area assisting in the search and collection of oiled animals. Our organization is a proud member of OWCN, which is statewide collective of wildlife care providers and regional facilities interested in working with oil-affected wildlife.

Meantime, most of the spilled oil near Platform A has been cleaned up. A total of 1,400 gallons of oil (34 barrels) has been mopped up. Officials raised the amount of oil spilled since the December 7, 2008 incident. At one time the amount was reportedly 1,100 gallons. (Note: The standard oil barrel is 42 US gallons)

Platform A was the site of the massive January 29, 1969 oil spill. For eleven days, 3 million gallons of crude spewed out of the well, as oil workers struggled to cap the rupture.

Any injured wildlife should be reported to 877-823-6926.

Also see the new OWCN blog and website for more info.

August 7, 2008

Crisis continues for Brown Pelicans along coast

In the last few days our Northern California rehabilitation center, located in Fairfield, received another 25 brown pelicans from the Santa Cruz area. That makes a total of 137 pelicans this year in Northern California alone and 115 of those pelicans have come in since June 15th! Until recently they have been mostly young birds that are learning to fish and are feeding on large schools of anchovies and sardines that are moving along the California coastline. As of today, more than 30 of the birds that have come to our center are suffering from injuries due to fishing hooks and monofilament line entanglement.

Overview of the Current Crisis Situation

For those of you that don’t remember, in 2002 IBRRC received 200 injured pelicans from Santa Cruz within a month because large numbers of brown pelicans were feeding on anchovies under the Santa Cruz piers. Fisherman fishing from the piers can catch up to five small fish at a time by basically creating a long line system where each line has up to five leads with hooks on the ends of them. The lines are dropped from very high piers and are often pulled up with up to 5 wiggling fish on them. Pelicans see this as a free meal and grab them, becoming entangled. The fishermen get annoyed, cut the lines and then the pelicans are found on the wharf and local beaches with injuries and entanglements. This is happening right now!

In 2002 IBRRC worked with local government and California Fish & Game to temporarily close the Santa Cruz wharf to fishing until the bait fish moved out of the area. This tactic was successful and ended the fishing tackle entanglements. We are again asking the regulatory agencies to temporarily close these areas to fishing. This year the problem is much worse as three different piers are being used for fishing and literally thousands of brown pelicans are feeding on the fish. Two of the piers are now closed but one remains open to fishing. One fisherman complained to reporters that he is catching a pelican every 20 minutes and cutting the line.

Media report: ABC-TV: Pelicans getting fatally snared in Capitola

IBRRC as the Hub for west coast pelican rehabilitation

IBRRC has the largest facilities and most advanced program for pelican and sea bird rehabilitation along the west coast of the US. Each of our rehabilitation centers is equipped with a one hundred foot long pelican flight aviary. These aviaries are specifically built for pelicans and provide them flight rehabilitation. Each aviary can hold up to 75 birds at a time and both are in full use right now.

Your support is desperately needed

As I write this appeal there are 70 brown pelicans at our Northern California center, in Fairfield, receiving treatment for fishing tackle injuries and other problems and an equal amount at our Southern California facility in San Pedro. Each pelican eats up to 5 pounds of fish a day. The low estimate of a single pelican’s cost to rehabilitate is $20.00 per day. In truth, the cost is much more for those that require antibiotics and further care. I am asking for your financial support again to help us in this crisis situation.

We have set up many ways for our supporters to contribute. Donations in any amount you wish are always welcome. You may Adopt a Pelican or become a Pelican Partner. Becoming a Pelican Partner provides you with the opportunity to receive a private tour of one of our facilities and join our staff or volunteers at the release of the pelican that you have adopted and helped. I urge you to help us rehabilitate these pelicans. Share this information with friends and encourage their involvement. Help us: Adopt-a-Pelican or Donate

Thank you from all the staff and volunteers at IBRRC for your help.

Jay Holcomb

Executive Director
International Bird Rescue Research Center, IBRRC

January 23, 2008

One more Argentina oil spill update

Direct from Patagonia, Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s Executive Director, sent this latest update on the Argentina oil spill response:

Today we finished washing most of the birds accept about 8 of the last penguins. We also washed the 4 new oiled cormorants and 5 rewash cormorants that still had wet underwings meaning that they likely have oil on them. So, other than a bird here and there we are more or less shutting down the wash room for daily activity.

We released 6 steamer ducks at a perfect place where they joined about 80 others. We also released 18 cormorants at the same place and they did equally well.

We then began go grade (check for waterproofing) the first group of penguins for release. We approved 22 penguins that will be released tomorrow and early in the morning we are evaluating another 50 or so. All penguins have been put on a very aggressive swimming schedule that will help them become waterproof asap.

We only have 7 grebes left and will reevaluate them on Friday. We have a total of 9 cormorants and will evaluate them on Sunday or Monday since they were just washed today. We have 3 ducks. One is in treatment for a swollen wing but the other 2 are still wet on their stomachs and they will also evaluated in a few days.

I forgot to mention that another very large slick came to shore yesterday and that was quite discouraging to us. There are more oiled cormorants and an occasional oiled bird here and there. Not sure what will happen after we leave as we made an internal agreement to get the other birds out before we leave and just leave penguins.

See IBRRC website

January 22, 2008

Argentina 1/21/08 Update: Oil spill response

Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s Executive Director, who is in Argentina, sent this update from Patagonia oil spill response this evening:

We established today as a big major penguin washing day so that we can wrap this spill up. With water issues and other problems we have only been able to wash a total of 25 or so penguins a day and we really wanted to do 30 to 40 a day. A few days ago we decided that we would do a long wash day and intend to do 50 to 60 penguins. That only leaves 30 or so oiled penguins left to wash and 10 of those are the weak ones that will go through the process once they are approved. So, today we washed a total of 50 Penguins leaving only 35 left to do and 5 of those are going to wait so only 30 to wash tomorrow.

Tomorrow we are re-evaluating all 29 King Cormorants and intend to release as many as possible the next day. We know a few have oil under their wings and have to be rewashed.

We are also re-evaluating the steamer ducks. We know 2 have to stay back because of problems but maybe the rest can go. Sergio and I worked a long time on getting them to feed and now the eat real well. We hung tarps on the pools so they are not very stressed during the day so that has improved life for them and they actually started eating when I was in the cage today.

We released another 12 Great Grebes today. They are some of the meanest birds I have ever cared for but one of the most exquisite looking birds. We only have 10 left so I am happy. I have been very stressed with dealing with the aggression and they have managed to kill a few of their pool mates and scalp some others. I have a pool of 3 scalped ones that need to start to grow feathers in by next week. Their waterproofing has been flawless from day one and that is amazing since I have NEVER cleaned their cages. There is no way to do that because it water is so cloudy. You cannot see the bottom and they eat the fish that falls on the bottom. This waterproofing is one of the things that has worked out for them and it is because Rudolpho set us such a brilliant system. Many of the keep sores have resolved and that is amazing also. Great birds and maybe the desert air, soft water and the type of fish they eat combine to make a good pool environment. Who knows?

The penguins are doing well, eating a lot and swimming increasing amounts every day and we will start to evaluate the first bunch of them for release starting Wed at the latest.

Some oil got stirred up from somewhere in the local harbor and today we heard there was an oiled cormorant on the breakwater about 4 blocks from here where some sea lions hang out. We are in the backside of a small fishing village and the ladies at the local school provide us with lunch every day so we walk or drive there to eat. Anyway, Valeria and I were going to lunch and went to check out the cormorant and within a half an hour I captured 3 very oiled cormorants and had a few close encounters with the sea lions. Another cormorant swam away but one of the local guys caught it later. So, we now have 4 new oiled cormorants. The good thing is that they are very healthy and we will probably be able to wash them on Wednesday and get them through the system quickly. It is disturbing as there is oil all over the rocks and beaches and they stopped clean up. All the locals are very unhappy.

We also got an oiled South American Tern in that is missing feathers on one wing and will go to Patagonia Natural’s rehab program in Punta Tumbo until it gets it molts and gets new feathers.

There was mui dramatico incident yesterday as Valeria would call it. Some of the fisherman staged a demonstration that they call a manifestation and blocked our road and the main road a few killometers from here. They burnt tires and were loud but peaceful to us. They let us through after the locals told them to not bother the volunteers and all the various bird rehab people like us so we all left at the same time and they passed us through the road block. That was good. Once again they were saying that the penguins are more important than them, etc. and they were making a point to the local government. They made the front page of the local paper but were gone today.

That is really about it for now. I have been sending pictures for the web site and you can see them there. We explained to everyone here that we have 10 days left for us to get the small birds released and get the penguins started on their release and then leave the remaining penguins in the capable hands of the people from Patagonia Natural and the guys from Cabo Vergines, where we worked last year. They will take charge of seeing the remaining penguins out the door.


See IBRRC website

December 6, 2007

Update: 347 birds released back into wild

Nearly a month after oil spilled into San Francisco Bay, oiled wildlife experts continue to rehabilitate and release oiled birds. To date, 347 washed birds have been set free. Video of bird release

There have been nearly 2,400 confirmed deaths since the Cosco Busan container ship struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on November 7 and spilled 58,000 gallons of bunker crude oil. At least 1,750 arrived dead following the spill. Another 650 died or were euthanized during care at the OWCN/IBRRC Cordelia bird center.

Avian experts and biologist fear that 5 to 10 times the amount of bird deaths may actually end up taking place. That death figure estimates are based on birds that may have landed in the oil and then flown out of the area to die. San Francisco Chronicle story

My thanks to IBRRC volunteer Jean Shirley for the bird release photo and video.

November 30, 2007

317 cleaned birds back in the wild

A total of 317 cleaned birds have been released back in the wild.

As of November 29, 1,060 oiled birds arrived live to the bird center in Cordelia. The last bunch of birds are in rehabilitation pools getting ready for release. At least 573 died or were euthanized at the center after being oiled in the November 7th spill on San Francisco Bay.

Nearly 1,700 dead birds have been collected in the field.

Numbers via OWCN on November 29, 2007 @ 8 PM.

November 14, 2007

Updated bird numbers: 804 in care

An oiled Scaup is cleaned at OWCN/IBRRC bird
rescue center in Cordelia, CA. Click on image to see larger

Here’s the updated numbers on the oiled bird response:

804 live birds in care
244 washed of oil
105 died/euthanized
590 found dead in the field*

* birds found dead include:
112 visibly oiled
62 unoiled
416 unassessed

Full story on the spill

All of the birds are being treated at the OWCN’s San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Cordelia.

California Fish & Game and IBRRC wildlife rescue teams continue to comb the bay and beaches to collect birds for treatment after the SF Bay spill on Wednesday morning, November 7, 2007.

Updated numbers from OWCN: Tuesday 10:20 PM, November 13, 2007.


Volunteers wash birds at the Cordelia wildlife center.