Hooked a Bird

DON’T CUT THE LINE! Reel. Remove. Release.

Follow these steps to rescue a hooked bird: Reel in the bird. Remove the hook. Release the bird.

Watch the video demonstrating how to safely handle and unhook a bird External Website.

entanglement logo


Securely Holding A Bird

When handling a pelican, keep the beak slightly open so the bird can breathe.
Photo courtesy of George Veazey

Audubon Cleanup

Use scissors, clippers or a knife to gently cut fishing line and remove hooks.
Photo courtesy of Jeanette Edwards


Seabird Rehabilitators App Icon

Seabird Rehabilitators and Transporters App

  1. Enlist others for assistance if possible.
  2. REEL the bird in slowly and evenly.  Don’t try to shake the bird loose by jerking the line – it will inflict additional injury to the bird.
  3. If fishing from a pier, make sure that the bird remains on the water until a net, such as a hoop net, can be used to lift it onto the pier. Birds reeled up onto piers can be seriously injured, or can potentially damage fishing equipment.
  4. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.  Take extra care to protect yourself when handling long-billed wading birds and hooked-billed cormorants.
  5. Firmly grasp the bird’s head behind the eyes.  Then fold the wings up gently but firmly against the bird’s body so that it can’t flap its wings, and hold the legs. Hold firmly but don’t strangle the bird.  If it is a pelican, you can hold the beak but keep the beak slightly open so the bird can breathe. 
  6. Cover the bird’s head with a towel, hat, shirt, or other cloth. This will calm the bird and make it easier for you to remove the line and/or hook.
  7. REMOVE the hook by cutting the barb and backing the hook out.  If the barb is imbedded in the bird’s flesh, push the hook through until the barb emerges from the skin and then clip the barb.
  8. If the bird is entangled in line, use scissors, clippers or a knife to gently cut the line.  Place the cut line in a monofilament recycling bin, or cut the line into small (<3- inch pieces) and place in a lidded trashcan.
  9. Carefully check the bird over for other hooks or line and remove them too.
  10. If the bird is feisty, it is likely healthy enough to RELEASE.  Point its head towards the water and step back while you release the bird.  Let the bird take off on its own.  Sometimes birds shake their feathers out, assess the situation, and then are ready to fly.  Other times, they just take off.  Either way, this represents a successful release. 

If a bird has swallowed a fishing hook or is severely injured, use our app to find the nearest seabird rehabilitator to care for the bird and/or transporter to take the bird to a rehabilitator. Please stay with the bird until help arrives. You can also report an injured bird to the FWC using our FWC Reporter app for Apple or Android smartphones or tablets. You can download the free app from the App Store External Website or Google Play External Website.

Download our Pelican Rescue Brochure Adobe PDF

For tips on how to avoid hooking seabirds, visit protect Florida's seabirds.

FWC Facts:
The Bowhunter Education Course covers the history of bowhunting and places special emphasis on fundamental skills, techniques, tackle, safety and ethics.

Learn More at AskFWC