Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

February 14, 2019

Seabirds Oiled By Natural Seep Along California Coast Flood Los Angeles Center

A Western Grebe oiled by natural seep is cleaned at the Los Angeles Wildlife Center. Photo: Bill Steinkamp

Updated 3/4/2019

Since the beginning of 2019, more than 150 oiled seabirds coated in natural seep have been found stranded on beaches up and down the coast of California, from San Mateo County to Orange County.

The rescued birds are being washed and rehabilitated at our Los Angeles wildlife center. They include mainly Western Grebes, Clark’s Grebes, Red-throated Loons, and Surf Scoters. This influx of contaminated patients is not unusual. Each year in the fall and winter months Bird Rescue experiences an “Oiled Bird Season” as migrating birds pass through naturally occurring oil seeps. Read NOAA information: Natural Oil Seeps in Southern California

Oiled Common Murre seabird will be stabilized with food, fluids and rest before being washed at the SF Bay-Delta Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue

As a member organization of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network with a fully equipped state-of-the-art wash facility, Bird Rescue staff and volunteers are trained and ready to provide these patients with the specialized care that they need. While it is unfortunate any time a bird becomes oiled, these seasonal seep birds give us the chance to practice the techniques and procedures that would be used during a spill emergency. All animal care workers don appropriate personal protective equipment as they work to stabilize each oiled patient and eventually move them through wash, which is a long and taxing process for these birds. See cleaned birds on the live BirdCam

“One of the most important things that people should understand about caring for oiled wildlife is that the wash is just a small portion of the overall work that needs to be done in order to successfully rehabilitate and release these birds back into the wild,” said Julie Skoglund, Bird Rescue’s Operations Manager.

Once they are adequately hydrated and nourished, each bird takes about 30-60 minutes to go through the four-step wash and rinse process. Afterwards it is moved to a specialized enclosure to dry off. Then begins the multi-day process of waterproofing: a labor-intensive effort on the part of both patient and staff. It involves extensive feather preening, several days of moving back and forth between pools and drying pens, frequent checkups, and additional spot washes as needed. Once the bird has completely re-established its waterproofing, it will remain in care until any additional injuries have been resolved and it has attained a healthy state.

We are thankful for our partner organizations, especially the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, for stabilizing and transferring many of these oiled birds to us.

The Oiled Wildlife Care Network generously supports a portion of the cost for caring for these animals. To learn more about the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and their work with oil-affected wildlife, please visit https://owcn.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/

If you would like to contribute to the care of these birds, please donate today at https://www.bird-rescue.org/get-involved/donate

To report an oiled or injured animal, call the Oiled Wildlife Care Network hotline at (877) 823-6926.

Cleaned of oil, Western Grebes swim in one of the pelagic pools at the wildlife center in San Pedro, CA. Photo: Angie Trumbo/International Bird Rescue

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