Cruelty case: Terns are not for target practice

Elegant Tern 13-2408 in care at SF Bay Center, pellet in shoulder
Elegant Tern recovering from gunshot injury, photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Update: The Santa Cruz Sentinel has covered this cruelty incident, read the article here.

With a slender, downturned bill, a black crown during breeding season and a graceful wing shape in flight, it’s easy to see where the Elegant Tern got its name.

Unfortunately, the tern you see here was the target of very inelegant human cruelty, and now has a bullet lodged in its right shoulder.

Earlier this week, our San Francisco Bay center received into care this Elegant Tern, found injured on a beach in Santa Cruz, Calif. Xray1X-rays confirmed the presence of the bullet, shown here. These animals are considered a near-threatened species for their highly restricted breeding distribution: More than 90% of all Elegant Terns nest on the small island of Isla Rasa off the coast of Mexico’s Baja California.

But we are pleased to report that as of this post, the bird is doing well in care. And International Bird Rescue’s centers have deep experience in caring for terns such as this one. For instance, in 2006 we raised many young tern survivors after dozens of nests were deliberately washed off a barge docked in Long Beach, Calif. To give these birds the best chance of survival, we released them at a tern colony in the Salton Sea, where they would be surrounded by other young birds learning to fish.

International Bird Rescue Members help us make this work possible, whether it’s carrying for bird victims of cruelty incidents or other injury types. If you’ve given in our fall membership drive, thank you so much. If you haven’t yet, please consider joining us – we’re closing in on our $30,000 pledge goal and need your support. Any gift of $25 or more makes you a member.

Anyone with information on the perpetrator or perpetrators behind this animal cruelty case should call U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Offices in Burlingame, Calif. at (650) 876-9078. Elegant Terns are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Elegant Tern 13-2408 in care at SF Bay Center, pellet in shoulder

Meanwhile, our San Francisco Bay center is filling up with many other interesting seabirds in need of expert care, including this Surf Scoter (shown below), treated for a scalp injury of undetermined cause. You can see his recovery live on our BirdCam, along with several murres and grebes sharing his pool.

Surf Scoter 13-2400 in care at SF Bay Center
Surf Scoter, photo by Cheryl Reynolds

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More cruelty case coverage from 2013:

An update on arrowed goose’s recovery

More than a year after cruel attack, Brown Pelican soars high again

Birds getting caught in Marina del Rey tree nets

Santa Cruz Sentinel: Information sought after federally protected bird shot in Capitola (Oct. 10, 2013)