2015 was an unusually big year for International Bird Rescue. We received a record number of injured and sick aquatic birds during all seasons and there was no “slow season” as we have had in previous years.
More than 6,000 birds – including those from a mystery goo event, a Santa Barbara oil spill, and a mass stranding of Common Murres – are included in the extraordinary increase in patient numbers at our two California wildlife centers, run in conjunction with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) at UC Davis on behalf of the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).
“These increased numbers of birds, especially in Northern California, are concerning,” said JD Bergeron, Bird Rescue’s Executive Director, “and suggest that we may need to develop even more robust funding solutions to be able to keep up with the food and medication needs of these patients. We are concerned that aquatic birds may be facing graver challenges due to the longstanding drought, warming sea waters, violent El Niño storms, reduced habitat, and increased competition for food.
“On the bright side, our team of deeply dedicated staff and volunteers have been tireless in sustaining this ‘alert’ level of effort, coming in extra days and staying later in the evening to ensure that all our patients get the needed care. Further, we are immensely grateful to the thousands of individual, corporate, and foundation supporters who keep showing up to help fund our work. Every dollar helps us to help more birds. Together, we will continue to pursue our mission to mitigate the human impact on seabirds and other aquatic bird species.”
Of the total 6,083 patients, the San Francisco Bay Center had the highest number of birds: 4,372. Some of this can be attributed to the 300+ mystery goo birds (mainly Surf Scoters and assorted grebes) that were treated in January of last year and the more than 500 hungry and stranded Common Murres that flooded the center in Fairfield. Also 40 oiled seabirds were treated and washed in 2015.
At the Los Angeles Center the numbers totaled 1,554 for the year. Of those, 57 birds came in oiled from the Refugio oil pipeline break in May near Santa Barbara and ongoing natural oil seep along the Southern California coast.