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News

April 5, 2016

Our 45th Anniversary Ambassador Bird…the Surf Scoter!

SUSC-2016

In honor of our 45th anniversary, we have chosen the Surf Scoter as our ambassador bird. International Bird Rescue has a long history working with these iconic ducks. Surf Scoters were a seabird species deeply affected by the 1971 oil spill at the Golden Gate Bridge which led directly to the formation of Bird Rescue in April of that same year.

In 2007, Surf Scoters were also a key species during the Cosco Busan spill. We saw them again in great numbers during the 2015 Mystery Goo event in San Francisco Bay.

These striking birds are easily seen from shores and boats even without binoculars, making them a great learning target for new birders and children. In addition, they are very good patients during rehabilitation and heal relatively quickly.

Learn more about Surf Scoters at AllAboutBirds.org.

Photo: Cheryl Reynolds

 

February 22, 2016

New Oiled Birds Tied To Old Sunken Ship Still Leaking Off San Francisco

Oiled Red-necked Grebe

Oiled Red-necked Grebe in care. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds

Oiled seabirds recently cared for by International Bird Rescue have been conclusively traced back to a leaking cargo ship that sunk off the coast of California more than 60 years ago.

Since December of 2015, Bird Rescue’s wildlife center in Fairfield has cared for nine oiled birds including a Pacific Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Western Grebe, and six Common Murres. All the birds were rescued along beaches in San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties.

“International Bird Rescue exists to help mitigate human impacts on birds, and the Luckenbach unfortunately is a huge human mistake that continues to taint these beautiful seabirds,” said JD Bergeron, Executive Director. “We will continue to use our 45 years of experience to wash and rehabilitate contaminated wildlife, to train others to do so, to innovate with care options. Ultimately, this whole effort is to get more of these birds back to the wild.”

To date, three birds have been released, two are still in care, and the four remaining have died. A Red-necked Grebe was one of those released. Here is description of the steps to recovery: http://blog.bird-rescue.org/index.php/2016/02/patient-of-the-week-red-necked-grebe/.

Feather samples from the oiled birds sent to a California state lab confirmed that the oil came from the S.S. Jacob Luckenbach that sank in 180 feet of water on July 14, 1953 about 17 miles west-southwest of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. This cargo vessel was loaded with 457,000 gallons of bunker fuel. It has been leaking sporadically over the years – especially during winter months when strong currents bring oil to the ocean’s surface.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) announced these findings late last week.

Luckenbach sank 17 miles off San Francisco coast in 1953 and has been leaking oil ever since.

Luckenbach sank 17 miles off San Francisco coast in 1953 and has been leaking oil ever since.

In early 2002, oil associated with several “mystery spills” was first linked to the Luckenbach. These included the Point Reyes Tarball Incidents of winter 1997-1998 and the San Mateo Mystery Spill of 2001-2002.

Over the years, Bird Rescue estimates it has treated thousands of “mystery spill” birds.

“Bird Rescue has shouldered much of the cost of caring for these oiled birds, going back many years.” said Bergeron. “The oceans are becoming less and less hospitable for birds and other marine wildlife, even without these toxins. We step up to help because we believe every bird matters, and we’re grateful for the incredible community support we get.”

By September 2002, the U.S. Coast Guard and the trustees removed more than 100,000 gallons of the fuel oil from the vessel and sealed the remaining oil inside the vessel – including some 29,000 gallons that was inaccessible to be pumped out of the ship’s tanks.

What to do if you observe oiled wildlife

Anyone observing oiled wildlife should not approach or touch the animals. Please report the exact location and condition of the animal to Oiled Wildlife Care Network at (877) 823-6926.

How oil affects birds

When oil sticks to a bird’s feathers, it causes them to mat and separate, impairing waterproofing and exposing the animal’s sensitive skin to extremes in temperature. This can result in hypothermia, meaning the bird becomes cold, or hyperthermia, which results in overheating. Instinctively, the bird tries to get the oil off its feathers by preening, which results in the animal ingesting the oil and causing severe damage to its internal organs. In this emergency situation, the focus on preening overrides all other natural behaviors, including evading predators and feeding, making the bird vulnerable to secondary health problems such as severe weight loss, anemia and dehydration.

Resources

http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/maritime/expeditions/luckenbach.html

https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/OSPR/NRDA/Jacob-Luckenbach

Red-necked Grebe preens its feathers after being washed of oil. Photo Cheryl Reynolds

Red-necked Grebe preens its feathers after being washed of oil. Photo Cheryl Reynolds

January 28, 2016

Record Year of Bird Patients in 2015

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Clean Surf Scoters, contaminated by Mystery Goo, were among the record number of birds cared for in 2015 . Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

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.

Oiled Brown Pelican treated during May 2015 Refugio Pipeline Spill.

Oiled Brown Pelican treated during May 2015 Refugio Pipeline Spill.

“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.

January 24, 2016

Patients of the Week: Common Murres, once oiled now cleaned

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Cleaned of oil, Common Murres spend time in pelagic pools before being released from our San Francisco Bay center.

This week our patients of the week are oiled Common Murres. A handful of these seabirds from the Monterey/Santa Cruz area have been rescued and transported to the San Francisco Bay Center in Fairfield.

The birds are coming with light to heavy oiling on their undersides. The petroleum source has yet to be identified.

Oiled-Murre-intake-web

Common Murre during intake is photographed to document oiling. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

To clean the murres, our center staff and volunteers use a combination of methyl soyate (a methyl ester derived from soybean oil), DAWN dishwashing liquid, and high pressure shower wash to remove the oil from their feathers. After spending time regaining their natural water-proofing, the healthy murres are usually released into San Francisco Bay at Fort Baker near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Common Murres are diving birds that nest on high cliffs and spend most of their lives on the open water. The public will often spot these oiled birds along beaches at the tide line. At this point these birds are cold, hungry and tired from trying to preen the oil out of their feathers.

This species is has a hard time in past years with chronic oiling along the California coast from Santa Barbara to Northern California. Also a murre stranding was documented earlier this year from the central coast to Alaska. Thousands of birds are being affected and many ended up at our center in the fall of 2015.

January 19, 2016

45th Anniversary of Oil Spill That Led to Creation of International Bird Rescue

Photo of Oiled Surf Scoter from 1971 SF Bay spill

Oiled Surf Scoter found near Land’s End in 1971 San Francisco Bay Oil Spill (Golden Gate Bridge in background). IBR photo

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the oil spill that led directly to the creation of International Bird Rescue. On the early morning of January 19, 1971, two Standard Oil tankers, the Arizona Standard and the Oregon Standard, collided in foggy conditions near the Golden Gate Bridge. The ruptured tankers spilled at least 800,000 gallons of crude.

Among other terrible outcomes, the spill affected 7,000 birds. Volunteers collected nearly 4,300 of them, mainly Western Grebes and Surf Scoters, and brought them to makeshift rehabilitation centers.

Alice Berkner, the founder of Bird Rescue, remembers: “Here were about 16 different treatment centers scattered around the Bay Area. A friend of mine, who happened to be a veterinarian, asked me if I wanted to go to the hastily established Richmond Bird Center and help out.”

Only about 300 birds were successfully rehabilitated and released—in part given the lack of established rehabilitation practices for oiled birds at the time.

Jay Holcomb, Bird Rescue’s long-time director—who passed away in 2014—told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2012, “There were dying birds everywhere and no one knew what to do. It was as horrible as you can imagine,” said Holcomb. “It was then that we realized there needs to be an organized attempt for their care.”

Oregon-standard-San-Francisco-Bay-1971-spill

1971 collision of two Standard Oil tankers spilled at least 800,000 gallons of crude into San Francisco Bay

“As long as I live I will never forget the odor that assaulted me as I walked through the doors of the Center,” said Berkner. “It was a horrendous mix of rotting fish, bird droppings, oil, and, strangely enough, Vitamin B.”

International Bird Rescue Research Center (now “International Bird Rescue” was hatched in April of 1971 in the “little red house” at Berkeley’s Aquatic Park. Since then, it has led oiled bird rescue efforts in over 220 oil spills in more than a dozen countries.
 In the 1990s, Bird Rescue became a founding partner in California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN).

Today, Bird Rescue runs two full-time bird rehabilitation centers in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) and OWCN, located in Fairfield and San Pedro, as well as an as-needed oiled wildlife response facility in Anchorage, Alaska.

“From an environmental tragedy 45 years ago, Bird Rescue was born to deliver on the promise of mitigating the human impact on seabirds and other aquatic species through response, rehabilitation, and research,” said current Executive Director JD Bergeron. “And our 45th year promises to bring continued excellence in response and rehabilitation, as well as renewed focus on research, education, and outreach, especially to children, the next generation of wildlife and nature stewards.”

January 14, 2016

One Year Later: Webinar Explores What We Learned From Mystery Goo Event

Horned Grebe covered in "Mystery Goo" before cleaning, left, and after cleaning. Affectionally named "Gummy Bear" the birdwas returned to the wild. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

Horned Grebe covered in “Mystery Goo” before cleaning, left, and after cleaning. Affectionately named “Gummy Bear” the bird was returned to the wild. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

One year ago on January 16, 2015, we received reports of a spill of a mysterious sticky substance along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay that no one could identify! A large number of water birds was affected by this unknown substance. Many of the birds – which included Surf Scoters, Horned Grebes, Buffleheads and others – were covered in slime, dirt, and rocks, destroying their waterproofing and ability to maintain body temperature.

All the affected birds required intensive care and Bird Rescue had to develop a whole new cleaning process for this substance. This “Mystery Goo” turned out not to be a petroleum product, which meant there was no protocol for who should take responsibility for the birds and how they would be treated and cared for. Putting our own resources on the line, Bird Rescue stepped into that void and accepted more than 320 birds. Our supporters generously stepped up to help us fund this unusual event.

A year later, we would like to share what we learned.

Join us for a free online webinar on Thursday, January 21, 2016 at 7:00 PM.

Please register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4367155004328262402

December 31, 2015

Help Birds Soar Farther in 2016!

Pelican-Brown-dragging-wing-BS

Dear Friends and Bird Allies,

Just a quick reminder that it’s the final day of 2015 and you can still give the gift of flight with a tax-deductible donation.

As a bird lover we depend on your generous gifts to keep our clinic doors open 365 days of the year to make sure the 5,000+ avian patients get the best possible care.

If you’ve already donated, thank you again for your support! If you haven’t yet, please join us and make a contribution to Bird Rescue.

With warm wishes for a wonderful New Year!

Sincerely,

JD-B-signature-300px

JD Bergeron
Executive Director
International Bird Rescue

How will you help a bird today?

Photo by Bill Steinkamp

 

December 1, 2015

On #GivingTuesday Your Contribution Goes Twice As Far!

Two-Happy-SUCU-GivingTuesday

Dear Friends and Bird Allies,

Today is #GivingTuesday, a special day for Non-Profit Organizations everywhere – a day that celebrates giving during the holiday season.

Donate-ButtonTo help us celebrate, an anonymous International Bird Rescue donor will match all #GivingTuesday online contributions made today – up to $5,000! Make a donation online before midnight tonight and your gift is DOUBLED.

We know there are many worthy non-profit groups to support this holiday season, and we hope you’ll consider Bird Rescue when making your year-end, tax-deductible donations.

Won’t you please join us to help reach our $10,000 #GivingTuesday goal today?

With gratitude for your support,

JD-Bergeron_signature-web

 

 

 

 

JD Bergeron
Executive Director
International Bird Rescue

Photo: Cheryl Reynolds

November 19, 2015

Researchers: Saving Oiled Seabirds Is Effective Long-term

Photo of Little Blue Penguins Rena Spill Response in New Zealand

New research out of New Zealand is helping underscore what we’ve always believed: Saving oiled birds and returning them to the wild healthy and clean is not just well meaning but worth the effort.

Release of 60 Little Blue penguins at Mt Maunganui beach following Rena Oil Spill. Photo by Graeme Brown


Release of 60 Little Blue penguins at Mt Maunganui beach following Rena Oil Spill. Photo by Graeme Brown

Researchers from Massey University’s studied Little Blue Penguins (in photo above) following the 2011 Rena oil spill in the Bay of Plenty. They found both rehabilitated and non-rehabilitated birds were behaving similarly – diving to similar depths and in similar locations. They also analyzed the carbon and nitrogen levels in the birds’ feathers and able to show the penguins were feeding on similar prey.

Scientists evaluated the foraging behavior of eight cleaned birds using tracking devices and then compared it to the behavior of six unaffected birds.

The study was published this month in the Marine Pollution Bulletin. See the Massey University report

Bird Rescue sent a oiled wildlife response team to New Zealand in October 2011 after the 775 ft (236 m) cargo ship, MV Rena, ran aground on a charted reef off the North Island port of Tauranga. 300 metric tons of Fuel oil leaked from the ship and caused New Zealand’s worst environmental disaster. Read more

November 3, 2015

Sea Rescue TV: Refugio Oil Spill Episode

Sea Rescue TV has a new episode out on the wildlife response during the Refugio pipeline oil spill that hit the coast along Santa Barbara County in May 2015.

The piece captures the dedicated team helping care for and clean about 50 Brown Pelicans. All the effected seabirds were brought to our center in San Pedro, CA. Our staff and volunteers joined other Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) responders during this event.

Some of the rehabilitated pelicans were released with special satellite transmitters that help track the seabirds’ location. You can see their whereabouts via this interactive map and read about the innovative program.

More

Read more about the spill here

October 25, 2015

The Release Files: Common Murres

Ten more healthy Common Murres returned home this week. The seabirds were among hundreds of beached murres that have been rescued along the Northern California coast. They were released on October 23rd at Fort Baker in Sausalito, CA.

Photo Common Murres

Common Murres await release back to the wild. Photo by Elizabeth Russell

The hungry, exhausted murres – a diving seabird that looks a lot like a penguin – seem to be affected by the changing marine environment. Ocean water temperatures have risen along California and scientists believe that warmer currents associated with El Niño weather pattern may be to blame. As fish head for cooler water, the foraging birds may find a meal harder to reach.

Since July 1st a total of 468 murres have been delivered to our clinic. In October alone we’ve received 100+ new patients. Usually this time of the year we receive about 10 of this species each month. See earlier post

Bird Rescue has received seabirds from Monterey to Mendocino. The center which is located in Fairfield has deep above ground pelagic pools to allow the murres to swim, eat and gain their strength back.

Similar strandings with murres and other pelagic seabirds have been reported from Oregon to Alaska.

You can support the care of these seabirds by adopting: http://bird-rescue.org/adopt-murre

Media reports

10 birds return to San Francisco Bay after month-long rehab: ABC7-TV

Bird Rescue Center Releases Rehabilitated Seabirds: Getty Images

Biologists work to save massive number of sick sea birds: KTVU 2-TV

Along the Pacific Coast, a seabird is starving — and we don’t know why: PRI Radio

 

October 17, 2015

Murre-cy! That’s A Lot Of Murres!

Nearly 400 hungry, sick Common Murres have come into care since July. Photo by Russ Curtis

More than 425 hungry, sick Common Murres have come into care since July. Photo by Russ Curtis

How many hungry, sick Common Murres have poured into our Northern California center over the last 3+ months? A lot!

Since July 1st a total of 460 Murres have been delivered to our clinic. In October alone we’ve received 100+ new patients (updated Oct 25th). Usually this time of the year we receive about 10 of this species each month.

From Monterey to Mendocino the struggling seabirds have been transferred to Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center. The center has deep above ground pools (pelagic pools) to help the affected Murres swim, eat and gain their strength back.

The starving seabirds has raised red flags among ocean scientists. They believe that as waters warm along the California coast, some diving birds are starving as fish go deeper to reach cooler waters, putting themselves out of the birds’ reach. This past summer Northern California coastal waters have warmed 5 to 10 degrees above historical averages.

Similar strandings with Murres and other pelagic seabirds have been reported from Oregon north to Alaska.

You can support the care of these seabirds by adopting: http://bird-rescue.org/adopt-murre

See: Exhausted, Starving Seabirds Continue To Swamp San Francisco Bay Center

 

October 3, 2015

We Love Boobies!

Photos of Masked Booby and Red-Footed Booby at Bird Rescue's Los Angeles Center.

Masked Booby (left) and Red-Footed Booby at Los Angeles Center. Photos by Bill Steinkamp

What’s better than one booby?! How about two?

We have a pair of very rare boobies in care at our Los Angeles Center: a Red-footed Booby and a Masked Booby. Both of these seabird species are uncommon West Coast visitors. Red-footed Boobies can usually be found in tropical and sub-tropical waters across the globe. Masked Boobies have an enormous range that stretches from the Caribbean Islands to Australia. These unusual birds make a striking pair and we hope you enjoy the photos as much as we do.

Redondo Beach Animal Control found the Red-footed Booby last month at the Redondo Beach fishing pier. The officer observed that the bird was not moving. After transport to Bird Rescue, the booby was examined and found to be emaciated and molting with poor feather quality. It had some mild eye trauma that has since healed. (See: Patient of the Week, Sept.25, 2015)

Masked Booby was flown from Portland after being found along the coast at Newport, Oregon.

This Masked Booby was flown via Alaska Airlines from Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles after being found on the Oregon coast.

The Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) is the smallest of the booby family, standing just over two feet tall and with a wingspan over three feet.

On September 11th, a passerby captured the Masked Booby in Newport, Oregon. The bird was brought to the local Newport Field office of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Later, it was transferred to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where Curator of Birds CJ McCarty and her team cared for it. The bird came in quite thin – weighing only 1,405g.

The USFWS contacted International Bird Rescue and requested the Masked Booby be moved to Bird Rescue in California for continued rehabilitation and release closer to its natural range. Alaska Airlines agreed to transport the booby free of charge from Portland, OR, to Los Angeles, CA this week. All of us at Bird Rescue would like to say a big thank you to USFWS, Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Coast Aquarium, and Alaska Airlines for working together to get this bird the help it needed!

On Oct 1, the bird received a full examination by our veterinarian, Rebecca Duerr DVM, and was found to be bright and alert and in general good health, having gained a substantial amount of weight while at the aquarium.

The Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) is the largest of the booby family, standing about three feet tall and with a wingspan over five feet. According USFWS, this bird is only the second Masked Booby that has been reported north of Mendocino County, California.

Both birds are resting comfortably in the outdoor aviary at our center located in San Pedro, and are working on gaining more weight before release. When introduced to the other booby in the aviary, the Masked Booby sidled over to the Red-footed Booby along the edge of the pool and gave a big squawk of greeting to the other bird. They have been a fine pair of aviary booby buddies ever since.

You can help cover the cost of care of these birds by donating now: http://bird-rescue.org/donate

Photo of Masked and Red-footed Boobies at Bird Rescue Los Angeles

Both boobies are resting comfortably in the outdoor aviary at our center located in San Pedro, and are working on gaining more weight before release.

September 22, 2015

Exhausted, Starving Seabirds Continue To Swamp San Francisco Bay Center

Small mouth, big belly: Hungry Common Murres, including many young seabirds, are filling the San Francisco Bay Center. Photo: Cheryl Reynolds

Small mouth, big belly: Hungry Common Murres, including many young seabirds, are filling the San Francisco Bay Center. Photo: International Bird Rescue

An unprecedented number of exhausted, hungry seabirds continue to flood International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center. More than 250 rescued Common Murres – mostly young, malnourished chicks unable to maintain their weight and body temperature – have been delivered to the center in the last few weeks.

“The huge flow of stranded seabirds into our center has not slowed.” says Michelle Bellizzi, Center Manager at Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center. ”Just today we received 37 new patients in need of care. Our staff and volunteers are working long hours to make sure these birds get a second chance.”

Murre-Adopt-Button

The number of Murres this year is exceptional – especially since Bird Rescue rarely sees more than ten of this bird species in one month during the late summer and early fall.

The life-saving care these seabirds require is not cheap and continues to strain Bird Rescue’s resources. Donations are needed more than ever. You can symbolically adopt a Murre by donating online

“Thanks to some generous donations we have been able to bring one additional pool online and two more will be completed this week,” adds JD Bergeron, Executive Director of Bird Rescue, “but the costs of care, feeding, medication, and additional staff time continue to add up. During these emergency events we rely heavily on the support of our donors and other bird lovers.”

115 Common Murres ic care as of September 22, 2015. Photo: Russ Curtis

115 Common Murres ic care as of September 22, 2015. Photo: Russ Curtis

Murres in care can be viewed on Bird Rescue’s Live BirdCam: http://bird-rescue.org/birdcam/birdcam-1.aspx

Along the coast, the public and trained citizen scientists have been spotting not just live birds, but an unusually high number of dead birds on Northern California beaches. On Rodeo Beach in Marin County earlier this month, beach walkers counted 80 dead seabirds – mostly Common Murres.

The sight of so many starving seabirds has raised red flags among seabird scientists. These scientists surmise that as waters warm along the California coast, diving birds starve as fish go deeper to reach cooler waters, putting themselves out of the birds’ reach. This summer Northern California coastal waters have warmed 5 to 10 degrees above historical averages.

What’s happening to these seabirds is important. Common Murres serve as a key indicator species for ocean conservation. Their numbers are trending downward with documented changes in fish stocks, chronic oil spills, and interactions with humans.

The Common Murre (Uria aalge) looks very much like a small penguin. The public often reports seeing “little penguins” stranded on Bay Area beaches, what they are really seeing are Murres. Unlike Penguins, Common Murres can fly.

Murres spend most their lives out to sea, except when nesting on rocky cliffs. They are superb divers—essentially “flying” through water by using their wings to propel themselves. They can dive in excess of 200 feet below the surface to forage.

September 14, 2015

State Labs: Mystery Goo Identified as Polymerized Oil, Similar to Vegetable Oil

Bufflehead coated with mystery goo during intake exam in January 2015.

Bufflehead coated with mystery goo during intake exam in January 2015.

In January, a “mystery goo” coated more than 500 seabirds along the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay. The goo has now been further identified by state labs as a “polymerized oil, most similar to vegetable oil.”

While in an oil spill, a responsible party steps forward to pay for the costs of cleanup, there was – and still is – no identified responsible party for the Mystery Goo. However, International Bird Rescue (“Bird Rescue”) took the lead after 323 live birds with the sticky substance were captured and transported to our San Francisco Bay Center. Bird Rescue was able to clean and rehabilitate 165 birds and release them back into the wild. An additional 170 birds were found dead. An unknown number of other birds were assumed killed because of predation or other factors.

State labs led by scientists at California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, and the California Department of Public Health in an effort to identify the material.

According to the report issued on September 11, 2015:

“The ‘goo’ was composed of a mixture of oils that contained polymers made up of fatty acids and triglycerides, and was most likely plant-derived. Petroleum products or animal fats were not detected through various chemical analyses. The presence of polymers (very large molecules made up of repeating smaller units), helps explain the gummy to hard nature of this substance.”

“This may be as close as we get,” said said Daniel Orr, environmental scientist with the California Fish and Wildlife Service. “I wish we had more to go on, but without a ‘pure’ sample or new investigative lead we may be at a standstill.”

The state and federal labs issued a preliminary report back on February 12 concluding that the substance included a mixture of non-petroleum-based fats or oils. See earlier blog post

The sticky goo resembled rubber cement and covered and matted the feathers of seabirds, limited their ability to stay warm, take flight, float and forage for food. No goo was found to be on the beach or in the water, which deepened the mystery.

Horned Grebe aka "Gummy Bear" came with super gunked feathers, 3 weeks later it was released clean.

One goo bird, a Horned Grebe aka “Gummy Bear,” came to Bird Rescue with super gunky feathers (left). After 3 weeks in care it was cleaned and healthy and was released back to the wild. (Photos by Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue)

Each of the birds was medically stabilized and then cleaned using a combination of baking soda and vinegar, followed by washing with Dawn detergent, and rinse to repair waterproofing.

Surf Scoters comprised 70% of birds brought in for care.

Surf Scoters comprised 70% of birds brought in for care.

The birds treated included: Surf Scoters, Horned Grebes, Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, and Scaups. More than 70% the bird affected were Surf Scoters.

The birds were rescued beginning on January 16, 2015, along the East Bay shoreline from Alameda south to Hayward. All of the live birds came in to Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center in Fairfield, CA. The last impacted bird came in on January 22.

Our friends at Wildlife Emergency Services (WES) helped lead the capture efforts in the field, alongside Bird Rescue staff.

Many of the birds arrived with pressure sores to their hocks or toes from being stranded on hard land, and took two or three months to treat. Several dozen birds had surgeries for keel injuries but most of these healed quickly. The last bird in care, a male Surf Scoter, was released back to the wild on April 15th – nearly three months following the incident.

With no responsible party to help with the cost of bird care, International Bird Rescue’s relied on public and foundation support to pay the $150,000 bill. This was a superb example of public-private partnership which Bird Rescue hopes to replicate for future unforeseeable events to ensure high quality care and sufficient supplies are on hand. You can support our Emergency Response capacity by donating here.

The goo incident still remains under investigation. If you have any information on the incident, contact California’s CalTIP line at 1-888-334-2258 or download the free CalTIP smartphone App. All reports are confidential.

Hundreds of Surf Scoters were among the 323 seabirds brought into care during the "Mystery Goo" event.

Hundreds of Surf Scoters were among the 323 seabirds brought into care during the “Mystery Goo” event.