Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Posts Tagged ‘bird deaths’

December 31, 2009

Birds shot at Oakland Airport now in care at IBRRC


Dear Friends,

Recent bird hazing efforts at Oakland International Airport have raised concerns about how the birds were shot and left to die and why authorities didn’t alert local wildlife agencies.

Late on December 23, International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) was asked to assist in capturing injured birds spotted just south of the Oakland airport. Early the next morning two of our response team members worked with California Department of Fish and Game and East Bay Regional Parks to pick up four dead birds and capture what turned out to be five injured shot birds. Three of these birds have since died while two Western Gulls that sustained gun shot wounds are in a guarded condition and still in care at IBRRC’s seabird rescue center in Fairfield.

It has now been reported that the birds were killed by contractors hired by the Oakland International Airport who contracts with the USDA to haze (frighten) birds away from the area if they are deemed a hazard to aircraft.

IBRRC supports any and all humane methods to haze birds away from airports. If these methods are not effective and government officials approve the killing of birds near an airport, it is our opinion that this must be done quickly, professionally and humanely. This also means that the bodies of dead birds should be picked up and any live injured birds should be humanely euthanized.

In the case of the Oyster Point incident local authorities were not informed that birds would be shot. At least 60 birds of various species, including brown pelicans, were shot and their bodies left floating in the area creating a concern that a poaching incident had occurred. Additionally a number of live injured birds with broken wings and other injuries were found by the public creating an unnecessary incident that created emotional stress to peoples lives and increased expenses to IBRRC, who is incurring the cost of the capture and the rehabilitation of the remaining two gulls.

We hope that the Oakland Airport will be investigated for what we consider a negligent “take” of birds near the airport and the inhumane, thoughtless and careless act of leaving injured live birds and the bodies of over 50 dead birds in the area. We hope that this will result in the Oakland Airport making the appropriate changes in their bird hazing protocols.

Jay Holcomb
, Executive Director
International Bird Rescue Research Center

News reports:

Birds killed to protect planes at Oakland airport: Oakland Tribune

May 1, 2009

Update: Brandt’s Cormorant deaths in Bay Area

Beginning in mid-April, natural resource agencies began receiving reports of dead and dying cormorants (and occasionally other coastal birds) in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dozens of dead Brandt’s Cormorants were found at a nesting colony on Alcatraz Island, and more that 100 have since been reported or recovered on the coast from Marin County south to Monterey County.

In addition, dozens of live sick cormorants have been recovered by local wildlife rehabilitation centers, including OWCN member organizations WildCare and International Bird Rescue Research Center. More than 25 injured live cormorants have been delivered to the San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care & Education Center, where staff and volunteers from IBRRC and the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center are providing care to these birds. According to the IBRRC Blog, Exec. Director Jay Holcomb describes the birds in care as “…adults in beautiful breeding plumage…in a weakened state but respond(ing) well to a treatment of fluid therapy and lots of fish”.

The California Department of Fish and Game Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz is conducting post-mortem exams and taking the lead on investigating potential causes of the unusual mortality event, with assistance from a number of organizations (including the OWCN and the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center). The dead birds found thus far are extremely emaciated, and showing no signs consistent with environmental contamination or infectious disease. However, samples are currently being checked for Newcastle Disease, Avian Influenza, West Nile Virus, and Domoic Acid toxicosis. There is no concern that these birds are carrying the recent H1N1 Influenza A (so-called “swine flu”) virus.

Cormorants feed on small fish that they capture by diving from the surface of the water. If the birds are starving due to lack of prey, it is not currently known what might have caused this abrupt change in prey availability, although the die-off began during a period of unusually strong northwest winds.

[Note: A Brandt’s Comorant is characterized by blue eyes. Double-crested Cormorants have green eyes.]

There is no need to report dead birds to wildlife agencies and the public is asked to leave dead birds where they are found. Regular surveys are being conducted by volunteer monitoring programs established by the Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries to document the number and location of dead birds. If very large concentrations of dead birds are found, they can be reported to the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center at (831) 469-1745.

Live birds in distress can be reported to local animal control or wildlife rehabilitation groups (contact info for local OWCN member organizations may be found here). If wildlife that may be oiled or otherwise contaminated is found, this information can be reported to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at 1-877-UCD-OWCN.

More information on Brandt’s Cormorants may be found on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site.

(Information from DFG-OSPR News Release and IBRRC Blog)

– by Mike Ziccardi, OWCN Director from the Oiled Wildlife Care Network Blog

News reports:

Hundreds of dead birds on Bay Area beaches: San Francisco Chronicle

April 1, 2009

Company admits 1,600 ducks died in oily waste

A Canadian company is under fire this week for under-reporting duck deaths at an oil sands plant in northern Alberta.

A Syncrude executive admitted 1,606 duck carcasses were collected from the toxic oily waters – three times more than was reported following the incident last year. The ponds contain waste from the process of separating oil from sand.

The birds died in April 2008 after becoming coated with the residual oil floating on the pond’s surface.

The company was accused of failing to prevent the birds from landing near the oily waters. The mining giant is scheduled to appear next next month in a Fort McMurray court on charges that carry up to $800,000 in combined fines. The charges also could include jail time for individuals deemed directly responsible.

Syncrude says it’s working to improve waterfowl hazing protocols in an effort to discourage waterfowl from tailing ponds areas: Details

Tar sand extraction is an important Canadian industry but environmentalists have criticized the process as having a terrible affect on birds. See: Tar Sands Mining Ravages Birds

News report:

CNN: Canada oil firm confirms 1,600 bird deaths

February 23, 2009

Study: Seabird deaths linked to red-tide foam

An important new study about the 2007 Monterey Bay bird die off is pointing toward a red-tide algae bloom that induced a dangerous sea foam. According to the study, the birds feathers lost their water-repellant nature after being coated with the foam.

The main species in the red tide was a type of dinoflagellate known as Akashiwo sanguinea. The red tide event hit when large numbers of migrating birds had arrived in the area. Also big waves churned up the water creating the sea foam that stripped birds feathers of natural insulating properties.

Birds affected included grebes, loons, northern fulmars, and surf scoters. Stranded birds were found starving and severely hypothermic. Nearly 600 birds were located alive and 207 were found dead during this event.

According to the report, freshly stranded birds had a pungent odor similar to that of linseed oil while still wet, but with time, this material dried, leaving a fine, pale yellow crust with minimal smell.

Raphael Kudela, professor of ocean sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, teamed up with scientists from California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML)–all members of the Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS).

These kinds of red-tide events may occur more often in the future, Kulea said. These changes are probably due in part to the effects of climate change on surface water temperatures.

The study alludes to another interesting fact about other compounds in the bay worth studying:

…Extracts of seawater from four areas in northern Monterey Bay heavily impacted by the red tide were analyzed for polar and non-polar compounds by gas- and liquid chromatography-mass spectroscopy and were found to be negative for petroleum compounds, commercial surfactants, pesticides, domoic acid, okadaic acid, and microcystin toxins. However, samples of the co-occurring surface foam present at these same sites contained significant concentrations of an organic compound with a predominant chromatographic peak at 1230 mw, corresponding to a m/z 616 dimer composed of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen…

Researchers are releasing this study through an online journal called PLoS One: Mass Stranding of Marine Birds Caused by a Surfactant-Producing Red Tide

Read the Press Release on the UC Santa Cruz website

March 15, 2008

April NTSB public hearing in DC on SF oil spill

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will hold a two-day public hearing Cosco Busan oil spill that dumped around 55,000 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay after striking the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The hearing will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 8 at the NTSB’s Board Room and Conference Center, 429 L’Enfant Plaza, SW., Washington, D.C.

The hearing is part of the NTSB’s ongoing investigation into the accident that involved the 900-foot Cosco Busan container ship that struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on November 7, 2007. The board hopes to learn more about why Coast Guard and state officials were so slow to react and report the spill that killed more than 2,500 birds.

The hearing will be webcast. An agenda and webcast details will be posted on the Board’s website, http://www.ntsb.gov, when available.

February 15, 2008

Avian Cholera may be cause of bird deaths

The recent rash of bird deaths in Richardson Bay may be avian cholera. The first necrospy done on three birds showed that one bird died of this highly contagious bacteria. The disease is commonly transmitted through contact with secretions or feces of infected birds or the ingestion of food or water containing the bacteria.

According to the California Fish and Games website: “Avian cholera (not related to human cholera) is a common disease of North American waterfowl and results from infection with the bacterium Pasturella multocida. It spreads rapidly from bird-to-bird and can kill thousands of birds in a single incident. A bird infected with avian cholera dies quickly. Avian cholera die-offs in waterfowl commonly occur during the winter months in California, especially during cold spells and fog.”

At least 235 birds were picked up dead over the past two weeks. The spike was blamed on two recent sewage spills into the bay. At least 5 million gallons of partially treated human waste was dumped from the Marin County area. Scientists believe that the spill may have contributed to the rise of avian cholera. More tests on some of the other dead birds will help researchers determine the true cause.

See the San Francisco Chronicle story: Cholera killed bird found in Richardson Bay

December 29, 2007

2500 bird deaths in spill

As the Cosco Busan spill response finally comes to an end, the official tally for bird deaths reached 2,500. This includes 1,851 birds collected dead since the November 7th oil spill. Another 649 birds died or were euthanized during initial treatment at the joint OWCN/IBRRC wildlife hospital in Cordelia, CA.

On a happier note, 404 of the birds oiled in the San Francisco Bay spill were cleaned and successfully returned to the wild.