Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

March 24, 2008

Birds sickened along central coast a mystery

IBRRC has been assisting with the care of hundreds of birds that have been showing up with a mysterious illness along the central coast of California from Morro Bay south to Santa Barbara. Many of the 200+ birds are also showing signs of oiling.

The grebes are being treated at IBRRC’s Corelia and San Pedro centers. They are mainly Western and Clark’s grebes, two species that are common long the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Many have come from the Oceano Dunes area near San Luis Obispo. About one-third the birds have died.

Feather samples of the oiled birds are being examined by the state’s Fish and Game division: the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR). The samples should help determine if this the result of natural seepage in the area or an unreported oil spill.

Oil seepage occurs naturally all along the coast of California. Most of seeps affect the Santa Barbara Channel area near Coal Oil Point. Oil seeps have been documented by early California explorers and by coast-dwelling Chumash Indians. Recent storms may have stirred up the oil which usually floats on currents as tar balls. See a map of California oil seeps

Pacific Wildlife Care center in Morro Bay has been collecting the birds and arranging transportation to IBRRC’s centers.

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