Hopeful signs: More oil spill birds released
Dear Friends and Supporters,
This past week we released more than 150 clean birds after successful rehabilitation at the ongoing Gulf Oil Spill bird rescue. They were returned to the wild on Rabbit Island, another clean bird nesting island in western Louisiana.
We’ve had a fair amount of storm activity in the last few weeks and have had to schedule bird releases around heavy wind and rain. That’s unfortunate for us but will not impact the birds who can wait a few extra days before they return to the wild. We have made the best use of that time by providing live fish for them to eat so the young pelicans can continue to play and develop hunting skills as they plunge feed and chase live minnows in their pools.
Why are we still getting oiled birds?
While the number of oiled birds has slowed down tremendously, and especially in the last month, we are still receiving fledgling pelicans, gulls and terns. These fledgling birds became oiled while they were playing and bathing in the puddles in the inland areas or on the shorelines of small islands. In July a strong storm surge pushed oil onto some of the nesting islands in the Grande Isle area. These islands are primarily made up of sand, gravel and shell and the highest elevations are typically no more than 4 feet high.
Some islands have low growing mangrove forests and many of the islands are covered with tall grasses. The storm surges pushed oil through the grasses and mangroves and much of it settled in shallow inlets and pools that are located throughout the inner areas of the islands. Some of these young birds have been oiled for a while and the only reason they survived was because the warm weather and hot sand allowed them to stay warm.
As they begin to fledge and hang out on the edges of their islands they are easier to capture without frightening the other birds. Since early July we have received around 500 oiled fledglings. We not only have to wash and rehabilitate them, we must take over the role of their parents and help them to learn to eat on their own and become decent hunters and foragers. That is where the live fish and other stimulating foods come in. So, in essence we are now operating a nursery and classroom for the feathered orphans of the spill. The birds now ready to be released have graduated to a state where we think they have a good chance for survival. They may be delayed for a few days but when they are ready they will be released into colonies of their species so that they can pick up where they left off in the education.
As of August 29, 2010 the Tri-State Bird Rescue and IBRRC Response Team have successfully cleaned and released 1,129 healthy birds back to the wild in Texas, SW Louisiana, Florida and Georgia. See: Updated bird numbers
We continue to remain hopeful and part of that comes from your encouragement and continuing support.
Jay Holcomb, Executive Director
International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC)