Birds in a Changing World

Photo of Elegant Terns during Spring courting ritual.
Elegant Terns during Spring courting ritual. Photo by Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson, Photographer in Focus

Throughout 2021, Bird Rescue has been celebrating its 50th Anniversary, reminiscing about stories of tenacity and innovative spirit in rescuing one bird at a time. When we rescue an animal, there are ripple effects that go well beyond that individual. Each animal returned to the wild can rejoin the population, preserving future generations. Our work gives them a second chance to contribute their unique genetic strengths to their species’ long-term survival.

“Birds in a changing world face new challenges that range far beyond our original mandate of helping birds in oil spills.” – JD Bergeron, CEO, International Bird Rescue

In today’s world, there are many things that can go wrong for wild birds. Humans have built the world around themselves. Problems with climate and human development are happening quickly and creating habitat loss, invasive species, and damaged ecosystems. Birds in a changing world face new challenges that range far beyond our original mandate of helping birds in oil spills.

Last summer a series of unexpected events brought this point home. A nesting colony of seabirds called Elegant Terns was disturbed, causing the abandonment of thousands of active nests. Not long after, 10,000+ of these same seabirds (likely the same colony) began nesting on two barges parked temporarily in a harbor. The barges were poorly suited for hatchlings and problems quickly arose: young flightless chicks were falling and drowning. Bird Rescue’s team leapt into action – along with volunteers and partners – to rescue the helpless chicks. With innovative thinking and good partnerships, we saved an entire generation of a threatened species.

“Populations are made up of individuals, and if you start looking at individuals as if they’re not important, then ultimately the population becomes unimportant.” – Jay Holcomb, Former Executive Director 1986-2014, International Bird Rescue

As birds attempt to survive a rapidly changing world, we expect to see more events like this and we anticipate the need to lift beyond our weight. Experts around the world agree: aquatic birds are in crisis. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation reports that “Seabirds are declining faster than any other group of birds. Populations of oceanic seabirds are most threatened.” (2018). As habitats shift, wildlife is affected. We are called to continue to take action, to innovate and evolve, but we can’t do it alone. The public must be involved–willing, engaged, and connected to the collective challenge.

So what then is our commitment as we start our next half-century? Conservation is key!

We hope to inspire the next generation of wildlife stewarts. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds – International Bird Rescue

We have learned so much within our walls about how to care for a vast array of injured, contaminated, orphaned, and otherwise human-impacted waterbirds. We are specialists at REACTING to large-scale emergencies and now we aim to be PROACTIVE in mitigating them. An array of new programs will broaden our impact outside our walls for the betterment of birds around the world:`

• To be a voice on behalf of waterbirds in a changing world, through advocacy and public education.

• To invoke greater compassion for wild birds through public campaigns that increase wildlife literacy and mitigate human-wildlife conflicts.

• To focus on species of special concern, such as the Snowy Plover, Elegant Tern, and Laysan Albatross.

• To pursue innovative conservation research that increases survivability of injured waterbirds.

• To build and broaden partnerships that help birds proactively, such as our collaboration to remove invasive mice from the Farallones Islands near San Francisco.

• To strengthen our search and rescue program that assists people AND wildlife wherever they face challenges.

• To expand our geographic influence to the Gulf Coast, the Midwest, and abroad – wherever waterbirds are in crisis.

• To inspire and train the next generation of waterbird rehabilitators and emergency responders.

• To educate and inspire children and young environmentalists who will carry the torch in the next 50 years.

It’s a bold new path and we hope that you will join us on this journey, because it is one we can only take together. We dream of a world in which every person (like you!), every day, takes action to protect the natural home of wildlife and ourselves.