Mama and Baby Bird Found Snagged Together by Fishing Lure

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.”

Fishing lure removed from mama and chick

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

All photos used with permission of IBR


Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

So sad!!!

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe4 years ago

I am sorry to read about the baby Tern, but I am glad the mama survived.

Jane R.
Jane R4 years ago

I feel s bad for these birds, but people who fish cannot prevent accidents from happening. They do not want things like this to happen but sometimes it does. I'm sure they are sorry when it happens but they don't always have control of a situation. If they could have helped these birds, I'm sure they would have. Fishermen aren't monsters.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner4 years ago

There is an update.. the baby tern's injuries were too severe and it died, but the mother did survive and was released.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner4 years ago

There should be open season on fishermen.

Georgina Burns
Georgina Burns4 years ago

Why are fishermen so ...............careless. Thank you for saving Mama & baby

jessica r.
jessica r4 years ago

Hoping they made it!

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

At least they stand a chance at life but it angers me that this happened. Irresponsible.

Fi T.
Past Member 4 years ago

This is the perfect counter-example to treasure life