Hooked a Bird? Don’t Cut the Line!

Even if you take precautionary steps to avoid it, you might hook a bird by accident. That’s when it’s important to remember: Don’t cut the line and let the bird fly away with it attached. This can lead to entanglement, resulting in the death of that bird and possibly others as well. Instead, follow these simple steps to unhook the bird: Reel. Remove. Release.

  1. Wear safety glasses and enlist a partner to help.
  2. Reel the bird in slowly and lift it from the water using a hoop net.
  3. Grasp the bird by the head just behind the eyes and fold the wings against the body. For pelicans, hold the beak, keeping the mouth slightly open so it can breathe. Cover the bird’s head with a cloth to keep it calm.
  4. Remove the barb and hook from the bird using pliers or clippers. If the bird is entangled, remove all line.
  5. Release the bird (if healthy) by placing it on the ground near the water and allowing it to take off.
  6. If the bird has swallowed the hook or is severely injured, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator.


How else can you help a seabird or wading bird?

  1. Don’t feed the birds. This teaches them not to approach an area they are more likely to be hooked.
  2. Dispose of filleted bones where birds can’t get them – in a trash can with lid or at home. Bones or a filleted fish can tear throats, stomachs and intestines.
  3. Cover bait buckets and take unused bait home.
  4. Dispose of fishing line in a monofilament recycling bin or cut into small pieces and place in the trash.
  5. Don’t leave your line unattended.
  6. Cast carefully to avoid being snared on trees, bridge piles, power lines or obstacles.    
  7. Help others learn what to do when they accidentally hook a bird.