Thousands Of Seabirds Saved In Long Beach Harbor With Innovation And Hard Work

Special platforms, called haul-outs, were installed and tied off to barges in Long Beach Harbor. This gives young Elegant Terns an opportunity to climb onto one of 10+ platforms to get warm and wait for adults to feed them. Photos: Russ Curtis – International Bird Rescue

More than 2,000 baby seabirds are alive because of the heroic efforts of Bird Rescue staff and our partners.

The seabird crisis in Long Beach Harbor that started in early July is evolving from an immediate rescue into a long-term response. The Elegant Tern chicks on the barges are beginning to fledge, testing their flight muscles, and stretching their wings. This new burst of youthful activity is adding a new flavor – and new urgency – to rescue efforts in the water.

Image donate buttonThanks to innovative thinking by the rescue team, young birds that have fallen from the barge now have a place to dry off, preen, and get fed by adults. Bird Rescue has deployed more than ten floating platform “haul-outs” alongside the barges for the Elegant Terns to get out of the water safely. The haul-outs are low enough to the water’s surface for small terns to climb onto and get warm. Bird Rescue staff are returning stabilized healthy chicks as quickly as possible to the barges. Baby seabirds will have the best chance of surviving in the wild if they are raised in the wild by their parents. As the young are returned to their colony they call out for their parents, creating a chorus of joyful reunion sounds that move rescue staff to continue this arduous work day after day.

Bird Rescue staff is leading a multi-agency team to tirelessly monitor the two barges that have been the focal point of this unusual wildlife rescue. Since the July 4th weekend, as young seabirds were reported dead and dying along the Long Beach shoreline, Bird Rescue’s team in San Pedro leapt into action – along with volunteer boat captains – to scoop up helpless baby seabirds. These seabirds were not able to make the high jump back up to the barge and were drowning in large numbers. More than 580 birds have been admitted to the Bird Rescue’s wildlife center during this response.

Seabird Rescue Continues: Julie Skoglund, left, of International Bird Rescue, and Jamie Sherman of Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) return rescued Elegant Terns to one of two the seabird colony barges in Long Beach Harbor.

Birds Released & Monitored

Starting last week, Bird Rescue began the important task of releasing rescued Elegant Terns back to one of the two barges. Before they are released, each bird is painted with reddish-pink markings on head and chest feathers. In addition, the terns have a small red band attached to one leg.

These visual tools will aid in the monitoring of these chicks from a distance. The markings are approved by the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory. The ink will wear off within a month. We have already observed painted chicks interacting with adults normally after being replaced on the barges.

And our work is not quite done yet. As fledgling activity increases, other not-quite-ready-to-fly chicks become even more likely to fall off the barge, and are still being rescued from the water. Our rescue teams are monitoring the colony and are on the water each day to assist terns off the haul-outs until a longer term solution can be put into place.

ATTENTION: Please Leave Long Beach Seabird Rescue Effort to Trained Professionals– Any additional disturbance could disrupt the delicate rescue efforts.

Bird Rescue and our partners at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife urge all non-sanctioned persons and boats to keep away from the Elegant Tern breeding colony in Long Beach Harbor. We understand and deeply appreciate the community’s desire to assist in the boat rescue. However, additional boats and onlookers can disturb the nesting site and scare away birds. To keep the birds as safe as possible, please help us disseminate this critical information.

It Takes More Than a Village

Bird Rescue would like to thank all the generous people who have stepped up to help meet the extra demands this seabird emergency requires. This is an expensive response, including additional costs to increase staffing to handle the increased patient load, supplies for building haul-outs, large quantities of fish to feed the affected birds in care, and medicines to prevent pneumonia in chicks that have inhaled sea water. You can help: Donate to the Long Beach Seabird Rescue

Again a huge thanks to all our partners in the field: 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).