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Rescued elegant tern chick nicknamed ‘Little Mike’ captures hearts of caretakers

One special baby bird has captured the hearts of its rescuers.

About 500 elegant terns chicks, a threatened species, have so far gone to a San Pedro rescue center after falling off two barges in the Long Beach Harbor in the days following the Fourth of July weekend. Those barges house a tern colony — possibly those that left Huntington Beach’s Bolsa Chica wetlands after being frightened when a drone crashed there earlier this year — that numbers in the thousands. And, experts have said, it’s possible the chicks began falling off because of a lack of space.

But ending up in the water is life-threatening for the baby seabirds: they can’t yet fly and their feathers are not yet waterproof.

As a result, dozens of carcasses have been discovered. But a multi-agency rescue effort has also saved many others.

In fact, of the 500 birds that have gone to International Bird Rescue, in San Pedro’s Angels Gate Park, about 170 have already been released, officials said Thursday, July 22.

And at least one more could be headed home this weekend.

His name is Little Mike.

Late last week, an IBR boat team was saving terns when it approached a chick that had been drifting underwater for nearly 20 seconds — and wasn’t breathing.

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Julie Skoglund, director of operations at International Bird Rescue, quickly set about trying to resuscitate Little Mike.

She cleared his lungs — and got Little Mike breathing again. He was also treated for hypothermia.

“He was the tiniest little guy and I was determined to save him,” Skoglund said in a statement “It was touch and go but we’ve been able to revive a handful of birds we thought were dead using this technique – so I didn’t give up.”

And neither did Mike. He recovered quickly. Within 30 minutes, he was already running around and trying to eat Skoglund’s fingers.

IBR recovered more than 20 other tern chicks that day, though officials say Mike was the smallest and youngest of the bunch.

Since then, Little Mike has enjoyed his recovery at IBR’s facility.  A staff veterinarian checks him regularly. He’s on medication to prevent pneumonia. And workers hand feed him live fish. His weight has more than doubled since his rescue. He weighs 150 grams, IBR said Thursday, which is more than five ounces — and about four fewer than an average adult.

Little Mike has since been cleared to join some of the other vulnerable young terns in a specialized incubator environment.

“Waterbirds are struggling, and Elegant Terns specifically are a species of concern,” JD Bergeron, CEO of International Bird Rescue, said in a statement. “For Bird Rescue, each and every bird that comes through our doors is a commitment: to the care and feeding it takes on a daily basis to get them back into the wild, as well as educating the public on the issues these birds face and how our individual and community actions can help.

“And we can’t do it alone,” Bergeron added. “We count on public support to help us pay for the extraordinary expense of raising several hundred ‘Little Mikes’.”

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The chicks are fed four times a day, which requires more than six technicians working in unison for hours, according to the center. It takes more than 50 pounds of fish a day in order to feed all the young terns.

Each chick will likely remain at the center for at least a month before they are ready to leave.

Earlier this week, IBR officials said Little Mike might stay for longer because of his small stature.

But Little Mike is special. And is apparently on his own timeline.

On Thursday, IBR said in an email that Little Mike could be released as early as this weekend.

International Bird Rescue

The nonprofit clinic is accepting donations to help pay for the food and other care the terns will need during their rehabilitation.

Information: 310-514-2573 or birdrescue.org.

Staff writer Hayley Munguia contributed to this report.

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Source: Orange County Register

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