Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

November 19, 2015

Researchers: Saving Oiled Seabirds Is Effective Long-term

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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 18, 2015

Patient of the Week: Black Oystercatcher

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Black-Oystercather-11-2015-web

The Black Oystercatcher chick that we raised from a hatchling at our Northern California center has been named Ash (Hebrew for “happy”) by our summer interns Mari, Ioana, Brittany, and Julie.

Graphic on Black Oystercatcher by International Bird RescueWith its new name, Ash has been transferred from San Francisco Bay Center to the Los Angeles Center in preparation for placement soon in the shorebird sanctuary at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

This bird was not able to be released because it was unable to learn the basics of taking care of itself in the wild.

The orphaned oystercatcher was captured at Natural Bridges beach in Santa Cruz, CA on August 7, 2015 by our friends at Native Animal Rescue (NAR). It arrived weighing 23 grams on August 9th. In the photo below, the newly arrived hatchling munches on mussels. The bird was then featured then as Patient of the Week.

Please join us in wishing Ash a happy life in her new home!

Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

Photo of Black Oystercatcher hatchling at International Bird Rescue

November 6, 2015

Patient of the Week: Red-throated Loon

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This lucky loon recently made an unscheduled emergency landing on a Long Beach Airport runway. The Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) is now in care at our Los Angeles Center in San Pedro.

The bird was found and captured at the busy airport on October 21, 2015. It was reported by airport workers to be dazed and confused. Upon intake the bird was given a full exam and and was found to be severely emaciated with some minor toe abrasions.

Since arrival 15 days ago, the hungry loon has gained 200 grams. Its now living full time in one our pelagic pools and eating lots of fish. This bird is very active in the pool diving a lot as well as vocalizing.

Red-throated Loons is among the smallest and lightest of loons. Its breeding plumage is more blackish-brown and includes a striking deep red throat. In non-breeding plumage (current patient), it is mainly light gray with a speckle of white.

In North America, this loon species winters along both coasts – ranging as far south as the Baja California Peninsula and the Gulf of California in northwestern Mexico. In other parts of the world, its known as the Red-throated Diver.

Photo by Jeanette Bates – International Bird Rescue

 

November 3, 2015

Sea Rescue TV: Refugio Oil Spill Episode

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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

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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!

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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 12, 2015

The Release Files: Masked Booby

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Photo Masked Booby and Red-Footed Booby at International Bird Rescue

Masked Booby, left, stretches its wings before being released – a Red-footed Booby waits its turn. Photos by Bill Steinkamp

The wayward Masked Booby is back in the wild. It was released at White Point in San Pedro after about a week in care. The Booby was originally found in Newport, Oregon and then flown from Portland to Los Angeles after wildlife officials contacted our Southern California center.

Masked Boobies are tropical birds and its very unusual to see this species in Southern California let alone along the Oregon coast. Read earlier post: We Love Boobies!

Photos by Bill Steinkamp

Photo Masked Booby exam at International Bird Rescue

Photo Masked Booby release

Photo of Masked Booby release at White Point, San Pedro by International Bird Rescue

October 3, 2015

We Love Boobies!

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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 25, 2015

Patient of the Week: Red-Footed Booby

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Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Rare visitor: Red-Footed Booby in care at Los Angeles Center. Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Photo of Red-Footed Booby was found at the Redondo Beach fishing pier. Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck

Red-Footed Booby was found at the Redondo Beach fishing pier. Photo by Kylie Clatterbuck

We are treating a Red-Footed Booby – a very rare visitor to Southern California – at our Los Angeles Center.

The seabird was found September 13th by Redondo Beach Animal Control on the Redondo Beach fishing pier. The officer observed that the bird was not moving.

Upon initial exam, the Booby was found to be molting with very poor feather quality. It had some mild eye trauma that has since been resolved.

The bird is doing well and it recently got moved into the aviary. The clinic staff is working on getting the bird to self feed, so, for now, it is getting supplemental nutrition​ and hydration. We will keep you updated on it’s progress.

The Red-Footed Booby (Sula sula) is among the smallest of Boobies. It’s a strong flier and will fly long distances in search of food.

This species is an uncommon west coast visitor and has been seen only rarely along the California coast. The Red-Footed Booby usually can be found in tropical and sub-tropical waters across the globe.

September 22, 2015

Exhausted, Starving Seabirds Continue To Swamp San Francisco Bay Center

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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

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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.

September 10, 2015

The Release Files: Snowy Egrets

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SNEG-release-LA1-9-2015

SNEG

Two Snowy Egrets were released back to the wild this week by IBR staff and volunteers at Ballona Wetlands in Playa del Rey, CA. One of the birds had a toe amputation and required extra care the other was a short term patient. Thanks to Doug Carter for the wonder photos.

Love Snowy Egrets? You can symbolically adopt one through our bird adoption program: http://bird-rescue.org/adopt-snowy-egret.aspx

SNEG-release-LA2-9-2015

SNEG-release-LA3-9-2015

September 2, 2015

Seabirds Are Overwhelming International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Center

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More than 150 stranded Common Murres have come in for care at IBR’s San Francisco Bay Center in Fairfield. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center has been hit by an uncommon wave of Common Murres—more than 150 of them in August. The majority of these seabirds are young, malnourished chicks, exhausted and unable to maintain their body temperature.

Murre-Adopt-ButtonTo help in the quest to save the lives of these numerous vulnerable and needy seabird patients, IBR is asking for support from the bird-appreciating public.

“This is an unusually large post-breeding event and is severely straining our bird center resources,” said Michelle Bellizzi, manager of IBR’s San Francisco Bay Center. “We hope the public will help by donating to care for these birds.”

At our already busy center, the murre patients are taking over — especially in the outdoor pelagic pools. The number of murres this year is exceptional – especially since IBR rarely sees more than 10 of these bird species in one month during the summer. Check out the live BirdCam

COMU-hatchling-pool-cry

Hatchling year Common Murres are among the most seabird patients in care.

To most people, the Common Murre (Uria aalge) looks very much like a small penguin; in fact, the public often reports seeing “little penguins” stranded on the Bay area beaches when, in fact, they’re seeing murres. In contrast to Penguins, which are flightless and live in southern oceans, Common Murres are diving seabirds that can fly, and that breed and feed widely along the Pacific Coast from central California to Alaska.

Except when nesting, which they do on rocky cliffs, murres spend their lives in and on the water and are nothing less than super-divers—essentially “flying” through water by using their wings to propel themselves and diving in excess of 200 feet below the surface to forage.

As for what’s at the root of this huge influx of ailing Common Murres, no one knows for sure. Some 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 seen an increase of 5 to 10 degrees above historical averages.

Whatever the issue, what’s happening to these seabirds is important, since Common Murres have served as a key indicator species for ocean conservation for many years, and their numbers have been trending downwards with documented changes in fish stocks, chronic oil spills, and interactions with humans.

Even in the best of times, IBR relies on public support to treat and feed ill and injured seabirds each year—more than 5,000 patients are cared for annually at IBR’s two California centers.

Right now, Common Murres needing life-saving care are proving extra-challenging and are truly testing IBR’s resources. Donations are greatly needed and greatly appreciated. And for those who wish to donate in the form of a symbolic “adoption” of a murre, they can do so at http://bird-rescue.org/adopt-murre

 

August 22, 2015

Patient of the Week: Black Oystercatcher (Hatchling)

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Young Black Oystercather in care at our San Francisco Bay Center. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

We have a very special patient this week that may be the first hatchling Black Oystercatcher we’ve cared for in our 44+ years.

This orphaned Oystercatcher was captured at Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz, CA on August 7th by our friends at Native Animal Rescue (NAR). It arrived on August 9 weighing 23 grams. It has grown quickly and now weighs in at an impressive 112 grams.

The chick is in a shorebird box at our San Francisco Bay Center along with a surrogate parent (feather duster). It loves to munch on mussels and other mollusks.

Earlier this week eating mussels.

Last week Oystercatcher eating mussels.

At adulthood the Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) can grow to weigh 700 grams (24 oz) with a length of 47 cm (18.5 in). These noisy seabirds are found along the rocky coastal zones from Alaska to Baja California.

There only about 12,000 Black Oystercatchers along the west coast. They are associated with healthy, productive marine habitat and thus, a great indicator species of intertidal marine health.

August 20, 2015

The Release Files: Brown Pelican from Refugio Oil Spill

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Photo of Brown Pelican release

Brown Pelican z44 was released at White Point Beach. Photo by Bill Steinkamp

Photo of Pelican exam

Kelly Berry, IBR Los Angeles Center manager, gives Z44 a final exam.

One of the last oiled Brown Pelicans rehabilitated after being rescued at the Refugio Oil Spill was released this week.

Banded with special green Z44 leg band, the Pelican was returned to the wild on Tuesday, August 18th at White Point Beach in San Pedro, CA.

Originally banded as W19, was transferred to us on July 7th covered in oil from the May 19th spill in Santa Barbara County. After washing the bird, an abscess was found on its chest that required surgery to remove.

More than 50 oiled birds – mainly Brown Pelicans – were cared for at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center located in San Pedro.

Read: Oil Spill Over, But Animal Care Continues by Kelly Berry, IBR’s Manger at the Los Angeles Center

Special green Z leg bands will help researchers track Refugio spill birds.

Special green Z leg bands will help researchers track Refugio spill birds.

IBR was activated as a proud member of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). Staff and volunteers helped rescue, treat and wash the birds clean of oil. See an earlier post

The birds were oiled in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties after an oil pipeline break spilled more than 100,000 gallons of crude at Refugio State Beach about 20 miles from the city of Santa Barbara.

A total of 252 oiled seabirds were collected. This includes 57 live oiled birds and 195 birds that were found dead. More info

Photos by Bill Steinkamp

Released Pelican join other seabirds – including Cormorants – on rocks off White

Released Pelican joins other seabirds – including Cormorants – on rocks off White Point Beach. Photo by Bill Steinkamp