Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for October 2008

October 30, 2008

One year later: OWCN reflects on spill response

A very good update from the leader of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) on the upcoming anniversary of the Cosco Busan oil spill:

“Wildlife Experts Reflect on Anniversary of Big SF Bay Oil Spill”

One year after leading the second-largest rescue and rehabilitation of oiled seabirds in recent California history, UC Davis wildlife health experts are busy preparing for the next major oil spill.

“Our care for the wildlife affected by the Cosco Busan spill in San Francisco Bay demonstrated the excellence of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network as a whole,” said UC Davis wildlife veterinarian Michael Ziccardi, who directs the network. “It showed that a trained staff of dedicated professionals and volunteers, using research-based medicine in pre-established facilities, can save the lives of hundreds of animals that otherwise would have died.”

However, the rescue operation also revealed areas in the program that could be improved, Ziccardi said. “The infrastructure in place in California, following our four core tenets of readiness, response, research and reaching out, is truly not matched anywhere in the world. But our mission is to provide the best care possible to oiled wildlife, and with each spill, we learn how to make the ‘best care possible’ better.”

Ziccardi directed the care of birds of 31 species that were injured when more than 53,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled from the container ship Cosco Busan into San Francisco Bay on Nov. 7, 2007. Of 1,068 oiled birds collected alive, 418 birds (38.5 percent) were saved and later released back to the wild.

While lower than the typical 50 to 75 percent release rate that the network averages for California spills, Ziccardi said he considers this a success because “the spill occurred in the winter months (when birds are in poor condition), affected very stress-sensitive species, and affected a lot of birds — each of which makes it very difficult to repair the damage the oil causes.”

The injured birds were treated at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center in Fairfield, a 12,000-square-foot, $2.7 million facility capable of caring for up to 1,000 sick birds. It is the major Northern California rescue center in the statewide Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which is made up of 12 facilities and 25 local organizations that stand ready to care for oiled wildlife on short notice.

Read the full OWCN report online

Note: IBRRC is a leading member of OWCN and co-manages two of its main oiled wildlife response centers in California: Fairfield and San Pedro. More info

October 29, 2008

Rising from the ashes to ferment change

Sometimes sad stories do have happy endings. Take the unusual genesis of the Burning Hawk wine in Sonoma County.

In May 2008, a hawk landed on a powerline, it was electrocuted and then caught fire. After falling to its death, it started a grass fire on the edge of the Windsor Vineyards.

The tragedy turned to understanding as a local vintner, Nick Papadopoulos, Director of Resolution Wines, decided he wanted to put his wine making skills to good use. This summer, Burning Hawk Wines hit the market with two $30-a-bottle wines and an ambitious effort to prevent similar bird deaths.

As Nick says:
“…this innocent hawk’s story opened our eyes to the impact our energy system has on birds and wildlife. Because of the vineyard connection a clear vision emerged – to create the Burning Hawk philanthropic wine brand dedicated to saving other birds from the same peril. We were encouraged to make this vision take flight by dozens of birders, business executives, conservation organizations, vintners, friends and family…”

Now 10% of total sales of Burning Hawk wine will be contributed to organizations working to prevent raptors and other birds from being killed through electrocution or collision with power lines, windmills and other elements of the energy system.

To learn more about the dangerous collision of birds and powerlines, see the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC)

October 26, 2008

Report: Cosco Busan pilot at fault for accident

Almost a year after the Cosco Busan left it’s deadly wake of oil spilled on San Francisco Bay, the pilot’s captain in charge of the ship has been ruled at fault.

Capt. John Cota “failed to exercise sound judgment,” the pilot commission ruled in a report released this week. Cota has already given up his license and is under a seven count indictment in Federal court of violating the law by spilling oil and killing federally protected birds.

Cota, 60 of Petaluma, CA was in charge of piloting the 900-foot container ship out of San Francisco Bay on November 7, 2007 when it smashed into the Bay Bridge. After side-swiping the bridge, the ship’s tanks carrying bunker oil were ruptured. The 50,000 gallon spill killed at least 2,500 birds.

“Oh, yeah, it’s so foggy. I shouldn’t have gone,” the Cota was recorded saying on the morning of the spill. “I’m not going to do well on this one.” The morning fog was thick during the 8:30 AM mishap.

The 65,000-ton ship, which was bound for Busan, South Korea, was moving at nearly 13 miles an hour when it hit the bridge tower.

IBRRC and other agencies worked feverishly following the spill to capture and save as many oiled birds as possible. More than 1,000 birds were brought to our bird center in Fairfield, CA. Only 421 were returned the wild. Some biologists estimate that some 20,000 birds ultimately died in the spill and may have died elsewhere or sunk in the bay.

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle

October 20, 2008

Throwing a lifeline to the threatened Albatross

The latest effort to help save the threatened Albatross species is finally getting a boost from the United States. President George Bush recently agreed to bring The Agreement for the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) to the US Senate for approval.

ACAP is an international treaty protecting seabirds. “Its provisions advance the U.S. goals of protecting albatrosses and petrels. I recommend that the Senate give early and favorable consideration to the Agreement and give its advice and consent to accession”, stated President Bush. Read more in a Surfbird briefing

About 100,000 albatrosses die each year at the foot of the world’s fisheries industry when they unwittingly seize baited longline hooks intended for catching fish, according to the 2008 Red List.

Eighteen of the world’s 22 species of albatross are facing extinction, and ten of these are considered to Endangered or Critically Endangered – the highest levels of threat under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Birds.

In addition to deaths from longline and trawl fishing, the species also suffers from loss of eggs and chicks to introduced predators on breeding islands. Throw in global warming threats and changes in feeding areas and the Albatross can not reproduce fast enough to replace it’s dwindling population.

Here at IBRRC we see a fair amount of wayward Laysan Albatrosses in need of attention. Read about the species

Also of note:

Munch: The return of a unique rehabilitated bird

October 13, 2008

Video report on release of 373 penguins in Brazil

If you never witnessed the remarkable and heartwarming release of rehabilitated penguins, check out this video from CNN:


The Magellanic Penguins were flown on a Brazilian military C-130 Hercules transport plane. In all, 373 young penguins were rescued, rehabilitated and released last weekend after their search for food left them stranded, hundreds of miles from their usual feeding grounds.

Animal-welfare activists loaded the birds onto a Brazilian air force cargo plane and flew them 1,550 miles to the country’s southern coast, where a crowd of onlookers celebrated as the penguins marched back into the sea.

“We are overjoyed to see these penguins waddle back to the ocean and have a second chance at life,” said veterinarian Dr. Valeria Ruoppolo of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the group that oversaw the rescue.

An IFAW ER Team, along with colleagues from Center for the Recovery of Marine Animals (CRAM), Institute for Aquatic Mammals (IMA) and the environmental authority in Brazil, IBAMA, released the penguins in early October, making history as the largest group of these penguins to ever be released in Brazil at one time. All of the birds were banded with Federal bands and the Federal Banding authority, CEMAVE, came to work with the ER Team and others to learn about banding penguins.

This effort is part of The Penguin Network which partner in South America with local organizations and is co-managed by IBRRC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Read the full story on CNN.Com

October 10, 2008

Busch Conservation grant helps pelicans in distress

Thanks to a generous grant from SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, brown pelicans in distress will get more help in California. The Fund recently issued a grant to IBRRC totaling $5,000 in emergency funding to help the organization purchase food and medical supplies.

Since June 2008, hundreds of injured brown pelicans with hook, tackle and line injuries have come into the International Bird Rescue Rehabilitation Center’s (IBRRC) two California facilities.

The birds, migrating north from Mexico through Southern California, are becoming entangled in fishing gear as they feed on sardines and anchovies near the same piers and wharfs as local anglers in Santa Cruz, CA. When anglers reel in a catch, the birds try to eat the fish off the long lines. The lines are either cut or broken, leaving the birds injured and in need of care.

A non-profit foundation, the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund supports wildlife research, habitat protection, animal rescue and education in the U.S. and around the world. In addition to annual grants that have exceeded $5 million over the past five years, the Fund also issues animal crisis grants to provide rapid, much-needed funding to aid animals and habitats in peril due to either natural or human-caused events.

October 8, 2008

Good news: Disney grant helps with pelican crisis

A big thanks to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) for its $5,000 emergency grant to IBRRC to help pay for rehabilitating the injured pelicans found along the coast of California.

IBRRC was overwhelmed with hundreds of injured Brown Pelicans this summer at both California bird centers. Most were brought in for hook and fishing line entanglement injuries as they competed with local fishermen in the Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay areas.

The cost of feeding the pelicans will cost more than $35,000. The public also stepped up to help. If you have a couple of extra bucks, please help as you can: Donate or Adopt-a-Pelican

The Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund (DWCF) was established in 1995 as a global awards program for the study and protection of the world’s wildlife and ecosystems. It provides annual awards to US nonprofit conservation organizations working alongside their peers in other countries. Many of the recipient organizations concentrate their activities on “biological hotspots” — areas rich in plant and animal life at risk of imminent destruction. Read more

October 7, 2008

Dark skies initiative aims to help birds, stargazers

There was an excellent editorial this week in the New York Times about the dark skies initiative dealing with light pollution:

Scientists are only now studying how perpetual twilight affects the lives of birds and other animals, but there is no doubt that a clear, starry night has become a diminishing human pleasure.

Huge, electrified cities spread their nighttime glow for miles. On a 9-point scale — with 1 being a truly dark night — New York City ranks as a 9 and most suburbs seldom reach below a 5. Light is so pervasive that during a blackout in Los Angeles, some residents became alarmed at a liquidlike substance that had taken over the sky. It was, of course, the Milky Way.

See the group’s website to learn more about the Dark Skies Initiative

Read the complete editorial

October 7, 2008

Schwarzenegger vetos/signs oil spill cleanup bills

Nearly a year following the oil spill that fouled San Francisco Bay, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week signed seven bills to help quicken response to spills and to train local volunteer. However, the governor also angered many environmentalists by vetoing three tougher bills.

“Sadly the governor vetoed the stronger bills,” said Warner Chabot in the San Jose Mercury News. “He gave us the gravy but not the meat,” said Chabot, vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group in San Francisco.

Schwarzenegger dumped SB 1056, by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, which would have required cleanup crews to respond to spills in San Francisco Bay within two hours, instead of six, as the law now requires.

AB 2032 was vetoed, by Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-El Cerrito, which have raised the state fee charged to oil companies from 5 cents a barrel to 8 cents a barrel on oil brought into California waters. This would have raised an additional $19 million in new funding for state oil spill response.

Lastly, he vetoed AB 2547, by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, that earmarked $1 million a year for grants to companies that develop newer oil spill cleanup technology.

The package of bills signed Monday, September 29, 2008 includes:

• AB2031 by Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley forces the state’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) to setup training and certifications of managers that would turn around and train volunteers.

• AB2935, by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, requires the Department of Fish and Game to close waters to fisherman within 24 hours of an oil spill of 42 gallons or more.

• SB1739, by Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, mandates spill responders to be adequately trained in part by regular and unannounced emergency drills.

• AB1960, by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, creates an inland oil-spill prevention program.

• AB2911, by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, makes state Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) administrator’s responsibility to include overseeing clean-up of inland oil spills.

• SB1217, by Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, requires the Board of Pilot Commissioners to submit an annual report to the Legislature regarding licensees, including review of the physical fitness of pilots.

• SB1627, by Senator Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, places the Board of Pilot Commissioners under the oversight of the state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.

The spate of bills follow the November 7, 2007 incident that spilled more than 50,000 gallons of bunker crude into San Francisco Bay. The spill response was roundly criticized as too slow, uncoordinated and frustrating to public volunteers who were prevented from quickly helping cleaning up oil or capture oiled animals without attending a mandatory volunteer orientation.

Scientists believe the spill may have killed 20,000 birds. IBRRC was instrumental in rescuing 1,000 but only 420 were returned to the wild.

Cosco Busan response report on IBRRC website

Read the San Francisco Chronicle story

San Jose Mercury News story

October 5, 2008

Making history: 372 Penguins released in Brazil

Thanks to the combined efforts of NGOs and the Brazilian government, 372 rehabilitated juvenile Magellanic penguins this week were airlifted and the released back to the wild in southern Brazil. This was a history making release: It’s the largest group of these penguins to ever be released in this country at one time.

An IFAW ER Team, along with colleagues from Center for the Recovery of Marine Animals (CRAM), Institute for Aquatic Mammals (IMA) and the environmental authority in Brazil, IBAMA, released 372 Magellanic penguins yesterday, making history as the largest group of these penguins to ever be released in Brazil at one time. All of the birds were banded with Federal bands and the Federal Banding authority, CEMAVE, came to work with the ER Team and others to learn about banding penguins. There are still 40 birds finishing their rehabilitation that will be released in the coming days.

The stranding of the penguins, because of poor food stocks, left them in extremely poor body condition. According to penguin researcher, Dr. Dee Boersma, there is a flow of warmer water (1° C higher than normal) which has caused the juvenile penguins to keep going north, past their usual range, where they are unable to find adequate food. There is always a high mortality rate for first year birds but this increased northerly range and lack of available food had increased the normal mortality rate for this group of penguins.

This effort is part of The Penguin Network which partner in South America with local organizations and is co-managed by IBRRC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).