Influx of Elegant Terns in Care From Long Beach Harbor Barge Incident

Some of the young Elegant Terns in care at Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife center. Photos: International Bird Rescue

Update: 467 seabirds rescued as of July 17, 2021 @ 10:00 AM

More than 460 Elegant Tern chicks that were startled off their nesting site in Long Beach Harbor have come into care at International Bird Rescue in San Pedro, CA, and more of these young seabirds are being rescued this week. Watch video

The barge and tern nesting spot is located in Long Beach Harbor not far from the Queen Mary.

These rescued seabirds are a part of a large tern colony nesting on an anchored barge located in Long Beach Harbor that may have been disturbed by boaters and fireworks over the Fourth of July weekend. New information is emerging as this event unfolds; we will update the public as more details become available.

Bird Rescue is actively responding to this crisis by deploying our leading expert on this subject directly to the field to assist with search and collection. The public is encouraged to report any birds in distress by calling our Los Angeles wildlife center: 310-514-2573.

“These young terns are in crisis right now and we will do our very best to help them,” said JD Bergeron, Bird Rescue CEO. “If you frequent the area, we invite you to take action by keeping an eye out for orphaned or injured birds.”

“We hope the public will help support the cost of these critical rescue efforts.” added Bergeron.


Elegant Terns face numerous challenges in Southern California. In May this year another Elegant Tern colony was disturbed at nearby Bolsa Chica Reserve when 3,000 nesting parents were scared away and abandoned their eggs. It’s also reminiscent of a 2006 barge incident when 500+ terns washed up on the Long Beach shoreline. Bird Rescue’s Julie Skoglund published a scientific paper in collaboration with Dr. Rebecca Duerr after the 2006 barge colony event.

The specific rehabilitative care needs of each species vary. Terns require more intensive care than other chicks. Young terns often stay close to their parents for up to six months as they learn to feed in the wild. Orphaned terns will require more intensive rehabilitative care lasting at least eight weeks to be releasable back into the wild.

Elegant Terns are still relatively common along the Pacific Coast but face conservation challenges. Because Elegant Terns have very few nesting areas, they are vulnerable to disturbance by humans, dogs, cats, rats, and other natural and introduced predators.

Bird Rescue’s mission is to inspire people to act toward balance with the natural world by rescuing waterbirds in crisis. We are first to respond in situations such as this but cannot do our work without the generous help and support of concerned members.

If you find a bird in distress, please follow these TEMPORARY care instructions to keep the bird safe before transporting:

  • Find a medium/large-sized box and place a folded towel at the bottom.
  • Ensure there are holes in the box big enough for airflow.
  • Place the bird in the box and keep in a dark, quiet place.
  • Keep the bird warm.
  • Please don’t feed the bird.
  • Leave the bird alone; don’t handle or bother it and always keep children and pets away.
  • Call our Los Angeles wildlife center: 310-514-2573.
Nesting Elegant Terns on barge is located in Long Beach Harbor.