Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Archive for March 2009

March 28, 2009

IBRRC launches Pennies for Pelicans program

Want to help a pelican? Donate your pennies and loose change to IBRRC’s new Pennies for Pelicans program.

All proceeds will go towards changing the lives of these birds, and giving them a second chance to return to the wild.

A donation of 1% of a dollar can add up fast. Its fun and easy program for anyone to participate in and help save Brown Pelicans!

Why pelicans need your help

Pelicans have been brought to our two California centers this year in unusually large numbers. They are incredible birds with an iconic face, long bills, unique pouches and they are big eaters. One pelican can eat up to five pounds of fish a day during a rehabilitation!

To help us pay for all the fish, IBRRC will be placing collection boxes at specific locations. If you would like to have one at your high traffic location, please let us know.

Soon we will have Brown Pelican curriculum available for teachers with age-specific educational activities. Stay tuned for information on this exciting new program.

Since 1971, the non-profit International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) has been dedicated to saving oiled, injured and sick aquatic birds worldwide. IBRRC is a member of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) and manages two bird rescue centers in California: Cordelia/Fairfield (Solano County) and San Pedro (Los Angeles County). The organization has responded to over 200 oil spills.

IBRRC is a non-profit 501-c-3 organization. Your contribution to any of its programs is tax deductible. To donate online, we can accept donations through PayPal. You can also adopt-a-pelican.

Pennies for Pelicans was the idea IBRRC volunteer, Liz Drummond. The logo was designed by Michelle Bellizzi, our Rehabilitation Manager at the Northern California bird center.

More info: Pennies for Pelicans Program

March 28, 2009

Help needed: Adopt a duckling!

Spring is finally upon us and that means one thing at IBRRC: Ducklings!

This year we’re again asking the public to help us pay for the cost of raising these orpahaned ducklings. Each year we receive thousands of these adorable little water birds. They have huge appetites and if you can help us out, we’d be more than thankful.

For as little as $25 you can adopt here or use the new PayPal widget to make a contribution. >> See on the upper right >>

Thanks from all of us at IBRRC…where the birds come first.

March 27, 2009

New State OF Birds report: Concern and hope

The newest State of Birds report is out this month and there’s both concern and hope. We’re focusing on the The State of Ocean Birds, but the full report covers all areas: lakes, grassland, forest, etc.

From the report: Of 81 ocean bird species, almost half are of conservation concern, including 4 that are federally listed as endangered or threatened. Based on available data, 39% of ocean bird species are declining, 37% stable, and 12% increasing. Too little data exist to determine the population trends for 12% of ocean birds.

Consider these other facts:

  • At least 81 bird species inhabit our nation’s marine waters, spending their lives at sea and returning to islands and coasts to nest.
  • At least 39% of bird species in U.S. marine waters are believed to be declining, but data are lacking for many species. Improved monitoring is imperative for conservation.
  • Ocean birds travel through waters of many nations and are increasingly threatened by fishing, pollution, problems on breeding grounds, and food supplies altered by rising ocean temperatures.
  • The health of our oceans and wildlife will improve with policies that address sustainable fishing, changes in food supply, and pollution.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinated creation of the new report as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, which includes partners from American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Geological Survey.

See the full State of Birds report Note this is large PDF file!

March 19, 2009

New Podcast: Remembering Exxon Valdez spill

Finally had some time to do a podcast interview with IBRRC’s Executive Director, Jay Holcomb, reflecting on the response to monumental Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Jay pioneered the search and rescue program at the spill. Additionally, he managed the entire rehabilitation program that cared for over 1,600 birds. He spent six straight months in Alaska during the spill.

For the past 23 years, Jay Holcomb has led IBRRC as it has responded to more than 200 domestic and international oil spills.

At least 11 million gallons of crude oil leaked out of the tanker just after midnight on March 24, 1989. The spill affected 1200 miles of coastline through the Prince William Sound and out toward Kodiak Island, Alaska. It ultimately killed more than 300,000 seabirds.

This podcast interview was conducted on March 16, 2009.

Listen to the 24 minute interview here

Also see: IBRRC Exxon Valdez response

March 19, 2009

Personal stories from Exxon Valdez oil spill

A new book capturing personal stories from the Exxon Valdez oil spill is due out this next week. It’s called The Spill: Personal Stories from the Exxon Valdez Disaster

We haven’t seen the book yet but it sounds like a winner. It chronicles 62 people as they share their own stories frombeing at the epicenter of North America’s worst oil tanker spill. Twenty years ago this month, the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. It spilled 11 million gallons of oil.

The book was written by Sharon Bushell & Stan Jones. Bushell is author of the We Alaskans books. Jones has written three titles in the Alaska-based Nathan Active mystery fiction series.

The publisher is a small Road Tunes Media from Homer, Alaska.

More info online

March 18, 2009

Exxon Valdez oil remains just below the surface

With the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill upon us, a spate of news stories and opinion pieces will surely follow. However, one piece of information worthy of reading is a report that says oil from the spill in some places is “nearly as toxic as it was the first few weeks after the spill.”

The report makes it clear that just below the surface, oil from the 1989 spill still haunts the Prince William Sound tidal areas.

“In 2001, researchers at the Auke Bay Laboratories, NOAA Fisheries dug over 9,000 pits, at 91 sites, over a 95-day field season. Over half the sites were contaminated with Exxon Valdez oil. Oil was found at different levels of intensity from light sheening; to oil droplets; to heavy oil where the pit would literally fill with oil…In 2003, additional surveys determined that while the majority of subsurface oil was in the midintertidal, a significant amount was also in the lower intertidal. The revised estimate of oil was now more than 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters). Additional surveys outside Prince William Sound have documented lingering oil also on the Kenai Peninsula and the Katmai coast, over 450 miles away.”

Another sobering part of the report continues:

“The amount of Exxon Valdez oil remaining substantially exceeds the sum total of all previous oil pollution on beaches in Prince William Sound (PWS),including oil spilled during the 1964 earthquake. This Exxon Valdez oil is decreasing at a rate of 0-4% per year… At this rate, the remaining oil will take decades and possibly centuries to disappear entirely.”

Nearly 11 million gallons of oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez after it ran aground at Bligh Reef early on Good Friday, March 24, 1989. The ship was captained by Joseph Hazelwood and bound for Long Beach, California with 35 million gallons of crude. It is the largest oil spill in United States history and lives on as one of the largest ecological disasters.

IBRRC personnel spent six months at the spill helping coordinate animal search and collection and treatment of oiled birds. More than 1600 birds were recovered alive and over half were successfully released cleaned back into the wild.

The bird deaths during the spill were astronomical. Between 300,000 to 400,000 seabirds were believed killed by the spill. About 35,000 bird carcasses were recovered. The majority of birds killed were Murres.

The report was submitted by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council that was formed to oversee restoration of the injured ecosystem through the use of the $900 million civil settlement with Exxon.

See also:

IBRRC’s Exxon Valdez response history

Download the full 20th annivesary report, 9 MB pdf

Or the smaller version Word document without photos and charts

Note: Oil pool (top) from Eleanor Island in 2004. Photo: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

March 18, 2009

Orcas sighted off Northern California coast

The extraordinary sighting of Orcas or “Killer Whales” in Northern California offshore waters is making the news this week.

About 40 Orcas were spotted late last week in the Gulf of the Farallones around 20 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge. Another group was also seen in the Half Moon Bay area feeding on a harbor seal.

The mammals usually are found in the Puget Sound area of Washington state, but it’s not unusual for some pods to venture south to feed on the abundant waters in Northern California. The Orcas are striking with their black and white colorings and can grow to at least 30 feet in length as adults. There was also a group spotted in January 2007. See SF Chronicle story

Like other pack animals, killer whales hunt in groups or pods for food. They work together and encircle and move prey into smaller areas before attacking. The animals feed on fish, squid seals, sea lions, walruses, sea turtles, otters and even birds.

Other news reports:

Killer whales spotted in Farallones waters

CBS-TV video report: Orcas Spotted Off Golden Gate Near Farallones

March 7, 2009

Beach trash stars in "Catch of the Day" ads

Garbage at the beach may be as common as salt in the ocean, but a recent public service campaign adds a disturbing and humorous twist.

A “Catch of the Day” campaign by the Surfrider Foundation uses beach trash wrapped like supermarket fish items to educate people on the amount and kinds of pollution dumped into our seas.

Working with the global advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, this real trash was collected from various beaches in the U.S. The items – plastics, styrofoam and even condoms – were then offered up at farmers’ markets to make a point with the public.

Here at IBRRC, we’ve been speaking out against the constant remnants of our throw away society. If you’ve ever walked the beach after a winter storm, you’ve seen the bits of plastic debris that litter the shore. The amount of plastic is astounding. Bottle caps, toys, cigarette lighters, fishing line and other plastic garbage litter the high tide mark along many of our beaches and harbors.

Scientists have documented this surge of plastic trash in our waterways that directly affect seabirds. In many areas of the globe, birds inadvertently feed on plastic floating on the water, mistaking it for food, and many times this ingestion leads to death and even the death of their young. See photo to the right >>>

In recent reports by scientists studying the stomach contents of Laysan Albatross chicks on Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean revealed disturbing results. Forty percent of Laysan Albatross chicks die before fledging. Necropsies of the chick’s stomachs found them filled with plastic trash.

When you visit a beach, take time to pick up the litter left by others and dispose of it properly. To be part of the world’s largest, one-day volunteer clean up held every September, sign up for The International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) or the California Coastal Cleanup. Volunteers can show their commitment to cleaner waterways by working together to clean local beaches, rivers, lakes and canals.


Kudos again to our friends at the Surfrider Foundation, the organization working towards protection and enjoyment of beaches, sea-shores, oceans all around the world.

See more from the campaign

More info about plastics and the oceans:

What’s for dinner? (PDF download)

Birds and plastics

March 7, 2009

Cosco Busan pilot boat captain pleads guilty

The Cosco Busan pilot boat captain has finally pleaded guilty this week to federal water pollution charges in an plea agreement that will force him to serve up to 10 months in prison.

Capt. John Cota, admitted that he made serious mistakes in piloting the Cosco Busan container ship through heavy fog Nov. 7, 2007. The 900 foot ship struck the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge spilling 53,000 gallons of its bunker crude oil.

Cota has also admitted to not telling authorities that he was using prescription drugs when he renewed his maritime pilot’s licenses in 2006 and 2007.

The guilty plea “is a reminder that the Cosco Busan crash was not just an accident, but a criminal act,” Justice Department official John Cruden said in a statement. “This is not a case involving a mere mistake.”

Cota’s defense attorney, isn’t buying all the charges and says: “An incompetent, untrained crew and mistakes by the Coast Guard” contributed heavily to the accident.

The spill caused widespread deaths to birds in the SF Bay. IBRRC was one of the lead oiled bird responders on the spill that stretched from Marin County beaches to Alameda County and Contra Costa County shorelines. More bird treatment info

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle story

March 5, 2009

First round of wildlife classes trains 385

The first group of Wildlife Emergency Response classes have been a tremendous success. Thanks to the 385 committed folks who attended the trainings.

These classes grew out of an increased interest in animal capture and care by the public and public agencies following the November 2007 Cosco Busan spill. They wanted to learn more about how to help saved animals in crisis situation and IBRRC saw a new opportunity to enhance local capabilities to help wildlife in need of rescue and rehabilitation.

These all day programs were developed by WildRescue and put on by International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), one of the world leaders in the recovery and care of oiled wildlife and aquatic birds.


The video above was from the the last training with East Bay Regional Parks workers. They were learning to catch “Robo Duck,” a seven pound, 10 inch tall, robotic duck. Robo Duck is able to reach a top speed of 35 miles an hour and simulates a wild birds reluctance to be captured. It was built by Duane Titus of WildRescue.

If you taken the class, you can apply to join IBRRC oil spill response team. Details

For those that couldn’t attend the first classes, you can submit your contact information and we’ll alert you when we can schedule new classes in your area. Sign-up for an alert on upcoming classes