“Little Mike” grows up; Returned to Elegant Tern colony in Southern California

This bird release was extra special: Little Mike the tiny seabird rescued from near drowning in Long Beach Harbor, has been returned to the wild. The Elegant Tern spent a month in our wildlife center getting special care and gaining weight (more than 100 grams) and strength.

Back in early July, Little Mike was among hundreds of baby Elegant Terns scooped from the waters surrounding two barges holding a large nesting colony that made their home in the Southern California harbor. As the young nestlings tumbled off the barge, they were unable to get back up, presenting an extraordinary bird rescue challenge for International Bird Rescue and its partners.

Getting a final exam just before release, “Little Mike” was one of the smallest Elegant Terns to come into care. Photo: Julie Skoglund – International Bird Rescue

Luckily for “Little Mike” he was spotted in time. The chick was found drowning underwater for almost 20 seconds without breathing, and thought to be dead. Bird Rescue’s Julie Skoglund scooped him from the water and immediately and gently performed life-saving coupage – a kind of avian CPR – to resuscitate the chick by clearing the water from the bird’s respiratory system.

“He was the tiniest little guy and I was determined to save him,” said Julie Skoglund, Director of Operations at Bird Rescue. “Little Mike” affectionately received the nickname after the goodhearted person who spotted him floundering in the busy harbor waters.

The tiny bird became a sign of hope as the young birds flooded into Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife center in San Pedro, CA. All told, more than 650 young seabirds entered into care. All of the Elegant Terns have been released from care and the rescue operation has become a monitoring response as crews patrol the area around the barges not far from where the historic Queen Mary is docked in Long Beach Harbor.

“These waterbirds were clearly struggling to survive,” said JD Bergeron, CEO. “And thanks to quick action with the help of our partners, we were able to undertake this extraordinary rescue.”

Elegant Terns are near threatened, and as much as they are common along the Pacific Coast – they face conservation challenges. With fewer nesting areas, they are vulnerable to disturbance by humans, dogs, cats, rats, and other natural and introduced predators.

“We want to thank the public for their generous support,” added Bergeron. “These hungry seabirds didn’t come into care with a credit card to pay for their meals – local bird lovers helped make the difference.”

Bird Rescue would also like to send a big thanks to all our partners who helped on this seabird response: Lenny Arkinstall of Los Cerritos Wetlands Stewards (LCWS), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), Aquarium of the Pacific, California Science Center, Heal the Bay, Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC), and Ocean Animal Response and Research Alliance (OARR).

Back in early July, “Little Mike” arrived weighing 60 grams. He was released at 188 grams. Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck – International Bird Rescue