International Bird Rescue (IBR) is an organization dedicated to helping aquatic birds, primarily those who have been damaged from oil spills. On June 24, 2014, a member discovered a grisly sight. While checking on the Elegant Tern colony at Terminal Island near Los Angeles, California, biologist Nick Liberato found a baby tern chick attached to his mama by a three pronged fishing lure.
“I spotted them as I was ushering some stray chicks back through the chick fencing and into the main rookery,” Liberato says. “As is usually the case, tangled birds become noticeable when the rest of the colony moves away as one approaches,” he says. “At first, I thought they were just tangled in monofilament [fishing line], but when I saw that multi-hooked lure puncturing both of them, I knew my tools wouldn’t cut it, so I got them over to you guys [IBR] as quickly as possible.”
The mama tern sustained injuries to her wing and the little chick was imbedded with two of the lure’s hooks through his left leg. Surgery was performed and the two are now separated but are still receiving intensive care and have a guarded prognosis. Andrew Harmon, Director of Marketing and Communication for IBR, told Care2 “at this point, it’s a 50/50 chance of survival for both.”
Bandage treatments and antibiotics are being administered in an attempt to save their lives. IBR writes “We’ve seen cases of monofilament fishing line entangling and injuring multiple seabirds, but this may be our first case of a fishing lure wounding both parent and chick.”
Elegant Terns are federally protected but enforcement of wildlife colonies is difficult at best. Human fishing has always presented a danger to aquatic birds. There is no way to discover how or who caused this horrible fate for the mama and chick.
About Elegant Terns
The scientific name for Elegant Terns is Thalasseus elegans. Their name stems from the gracefulness of flight the terns demonstrate. During breeding season they have a down-turned bill and black crown.
Elegant Terns breed on a small island off the coast of Mexico’s Baja California. During winter time they migrate to Peru, Ecuador and Chile. They feed by plunge-diving for fish in primarily ocean waters. Males offer fish to females as part of the courtship ritual. They are not that aggressive by nature and often nest close to Heermann’s gulls and other more aggressive birds for protection from predators.
Follow Their Updates
If the Terns do survive, IBR plans on releasing them back to the wild.
To discover more about International Bird Rescue and follow the progress of the mama and chick check out their website at www.birdrescue.org.
All photos used with permission of IBR