Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Posts Tagged ‘birds’

April 13, 2020

Release Files: Laysan Albatross Returns To The Wild

Laysan Albatross gets the first taste of freedom as a Black-footed Albatross waits. Photos by Don Baccus

The wayward Laysan Albatross that was found grounded in a meadow in Soquel, CA, is back in the wild after being released back to Monterey Bay. Thanks to the SPCA for Monterey County for doing the original rescue back in late March after local birders alerted the animal rescue group. After being transferred to International Bird Rescue, the albatross made an excellent recovery after two weeks in care.

Executive Director JD Bergeron transported the bird from our wildlife center in Fairfield to the Moss Landing Harbor. Big thanks to Fast Raft who donated their services to help transport the bird 10 miles off the coast. Bird lover and friend of Bird Rescue Jan Loomis was also helpful in arranging the trip. This trip out into the open ocean was a rare moment during the current pandemic and the small group involved were blessed with views of many seabirds, a few humpback whales, and a pod of orcas.

When the boat finally reached its destination, a nutrient-rich part of Monterey Bay, the boat was greeted by a Black-footed Albatross during the release of the former patient and was soon joined by a dozen more Black-footed Albatrosses, which also nest on Midway Atoll. It was a magic moment in nature after many weeks cooped up during the restrictions.

The bird’s release was dedicated to the late Shirley Doell who was one of the count leaders during the annual nesting albatross count on Midway Atoll. Bergeron met Doell several years ago when he volunteered to help count 600,000 nests on these northern Pacific Ocean islands.

With their tremendous 6½ foot wingspan, Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) can take advantage of prevailing winds to glide long distances – sometimes 300-400+ miles in one day. They breed on tiny islands in the North Pacific Ocean – especially Midway Atoll – about 3,000 miles from California.

The oldest known banded wild bird in the world is a Laysan Albatross named Wisdom. At 69 years old, Wisdom returns most years to Midway to renew her nest and hatch a chick – as she did again in December of 2018 but took a year off in 2019. To date she is believed to have hatched more than 40 chicks over the course of her life.

In the past, Laysan Albatrosses notably have been found as stowaways on container ships that travel the ocean highways. They have often been spotted resting or even building nests aboard these vessels. In recent years, we’ve also seen them picked up after crash landing in the Southern California desert. Read more

Bird Rescue relies on the generous support of the public to care for wildlife, including wayward birds blown off course, those injured in cruelty incidents, as well as those harmed by fishing gear and other human-caused injuries. Please donate

Near the release site, agroup of Black-footed-Albatrosses. Photo by Janette Loomis

April 1, 2020

Here Come The Baby Birds!

Orphaned ducklings are some of the baby birds we will enter into care this spring.

Dear Bird Rescue Supporter,

Our doors are still open for wildlife and that’s a good thing. Baby bird season is quickly upon us and we will need your help to keep them fed and cared for!

We need to raise $5,000 and if you donate today your donation will be DOUBLED by an anonymous donor!

Thank you for ALL your support during these uncertain times. It’s what keeps us moving forward. As always, your generous support is much appreciated!

Be well and please take care of your brood, too,

JD Bergeron
Executive Director
International Bird Rescue

P.S. – We also have another eight oiled Western Grebes coming into care this week – rescued from the natural oil seep that is prevalent along the coast in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

December 20, 2019

Oldest Known Banded King Eider Found 23 Years After Oil Spill Care

Male King Eiders are super colorful sea ducks commonly found in Arctic waters. CC photo by Ron Knight

A new bird banding report shows something truly remarkable: the oldest known King Eider – a species of sea duck – was a 24-year-old oil spill survivor cared for by International Bird Rescue. This finding proves once again that rehabilitated, formerly-oiled birds can survive many years after treatment and release back to the wild.

The latest discovery involves a male King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) that was oiled as an adult during an oil spill in Alaska in 1996. The recovered bird survived 23 years after oiling and release, and according to federal banding information, is one of the oldest known banded King Eiders.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Bird Banding Lab, which administers the scientific banding or ringing of wild birds in the U.S., the previously oldest recorded King Eider was an unoiled female that was at least 22 years 1 month old when she was recaptured and re-released during banding operations in Nunavut, Canada.

In 1996 rescued King Eiders were cleaned of oil after being flown to Anchorage from the Pribilof Islands. Photo © International Bird Rescue

This important news underscores what Bird Rescue has been advocating from its beginnings: oiled birds can and DO survive to live normal lives when rehabilitated after oiling, with appropriate resources and skilled staff. This is especially true when wildlife experts follow the protocols that have been refined over our nearly 50-year history.

Watch the video: Every Release Matters

“Bird Rescue has developed and remains at the forefront of the State of the Science for oiled wildlife treatment and rehabilitation,’ said Catherine Berg, NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator for Alaska. Berg was one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Alaska Oil Spill Response Coordinators. (Ron Britton was also worked as the National USFWS Oil Spill Coordinator and managed the Citrus spill along with Pamela Bergmann at the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Environmental Policy & Compliance, and Claudia Slater of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.)

“Seeing this kind of evidence of rehabilitated bird survival is truly a tribute to their dedication to the advancement of the science and to improving the care of injured birds.” Berg added.

The long-lived eider is also a testament to both Bird Rescue’s and the State of Alaska’s commitment to the successful concept of having a centralized response center to care for affected wildlife, rather than attempting the care and cleaning of animals in a remote, inaccessible location. All the birds from this spill were transported from a remote island for care in a centralized facility run by Bird Rescue in Anchorage.

The long-lived King Eider carried the Federal Band #1347-54951.

The reported King Eider was originally oiled during the M/V Citrus Oil Spill that began in mid-February 1996 in Alaska’s Pribilof Islands around St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea, approximately 300 miles from the nearest mainland, and 750 miles from Anchorage. One hundred eighty-six birds, mainly eiders, were rescued near St. Paul and transported by U.S. Coast Guard C-130 aircraft to Bird Rescue’s Anchorage emergency response center. After medical stabilization, washing, and rehabilitation, the cleaned seabirds were again transported (a four hour flight) back to St. Paul Island, where their release was celebrated by the community and with the participation of schoolchildren.

Bird Rescue is proud of its work and the body of knowledge regarding the care of oiled wildlife that it has cultivated and shared since its inception in 1971. Data such as band returns on these species provide critical feedback to our rehabilitation processes, and clearly we are on the right track.

The deceased eider (Federal Band #1347-54951) was taken near English Bay on St. Paul Island earlier this year. The metal band number was reported to the USGS Bird Banding Lab and they shared the information with Bird Rescue.

Male King Eiders are known for their very ornate and distinctive plumage. The male’s black and white feathers are accented by a reddish orange bill, bluish crown and greenish cheek. They are found in Arctic waters.

This is the fourth King Eider from the 1996 spill that has been reported through the Bird Banding Lab.

May 10, 2018

Sudden Surge of Sick and Dying Brown Pelicans along the Coast of California

June 13, 2018 update: 80 young Brown Pelicans have come into our two California wildlife centers.

Concern for Brown Pelicans that live along the coast of Southern California has been mounting as the reported number of sick and dying birds suddenly increased over the past week. Some of these cases, such as the two pelicans that crash-landed in the middle of a Pepperdine University graduation ceremony, have garnered media attention. Many more sick birds have been found grounded on LAX airport runways, on city streets, and in people’s yards.

More than 30 pelicans have been brought to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife center in San Pedro. The numbers have doubled in just a few days. The Brown Pelicans admitted show signs of emaciation, hypothermia, and anemia.

After being stabilized and fed, rescued Brown Pelicans recuperate in the flight aviary at Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center. Photo by Angie Trumbo–International Bird Rescue

While it is not unusual to see an uptick in hospitalized pelicans at this time of year, those birds are usually new fledglings coming to shore, hungry. The current situation is of particular concern because the birds affected are older, primarily in their second year.

“It’s normal for us to receive young pelicans who have just recently fledged their nests,” says Kylie Clatterbuck, Wildlife Center Manager, “however, what is unusual is that we are seeing many second year pelicans coming into care.”

The last large-scale problem with young Brown Pelicans occurred in 2012. During that year alone, Bird Rescue had 952 of mostly young birds came into care between its two California wildlife centers. Of those, over 600 affected pelicans were treated at the Los Angeles center.

Bird Rescue is asking for the public’s help in caring for these Brown Pelicans in need. Donations can be made online at www.birdrescue.org or mailed to the center directly (address below). We encourage anyone who spots a sick pelican to call their local animal control or contact us directly at 310-514-2573.

International Bird Rescue – Los Angeles Wildlife Center
3601 South Gaffey Street
San Pedro, California 90731

Devin Hanson, Bird Rescue Rehabilitation Technician at the Los Angeles Wildlife Center, exams young hungry and anemic Brown Pelican. Photo by Angie Trumbo–International Bird Rescue


Hungry Brown Pelicans outside in the pelican flight aviary at the Los Angeles Wildlife Center gobble down fish. Photo by Angie Trumbo–International Bird Rescue

At the San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center, almost 30 Brown Pelicans are in care for emaciation during pelican crash event. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds–International Bird Rescue

November 2, 2011

Exotic Stowaway Bird Flying Home, from LAX

An exotic seabird that arrived in Los Angeles as a stowaway aboard a ship from Korea is taking an unusual flight home to Hawaii this week having been rehabilitated at International Bird Rescue’s Wildlife Center in Los Angeles. The Red-Tailed Tropicbird, a solitary plunge-feeding seabird which rarely fishes within sight of land and nests on offshore islands in the pacific ocean, cannot be released from the Continental US and is instead heading home by plane with a one-way ticket on a commercial flight to Hawaii. The bird will depart from LAX on Thursday for Honolulu where it will be picked up by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agent and then immediately flown to Midway Atoll to be released back into the wild.

International Bird Rescue, which specializes in the rescue and rehabilitation of seabirds and other aquatic birds, has provided care to many other seabird stowaways in its 40-year history – primarily Laysan Albatrosses and the occasional Frigatebird. The stowaway phenomenon is generally considered to be a simple case of mistaken identity. Laysan Albatrosses looking for new nesting islands during breeding season can see the flat surface of a cargo ship as the perfect new home. They sit quietly among the cargo containers and are not discovered until the ship is unloaded. These birds are often brought to one of International Bird Rescue’s Wildlife Centers in California, where they are evaluated, and within a few days are released off of the Coast to fly back to Hawaii, Mexico, or wherever they choose. However, the Tropicbird, which does not soar long distances like an Albatross, needs a helping hand in order to return to its remote feeding and nesting grounds.

Red-tailed Tropicbirds nest throughout the southern Pacific Ocean, from the Hawaiian Islands to Western Australia as well as in the Indian Ocean. They disperse widely after breeding, and birds with numbered leg bands from Hawaii have been discovered as far away as Japan and the Philippines.

To catch their prey in the wild, mostly flying fish and squid, the Tropicbird flies high into the air and dives with wings half-folded into the water. However, in aviaries they cannot fly high enough to plunge for food, and consequently remain sitting on the water and must be force-fed. The bird has been in quarantine in its own private pool at International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center in San Pedro since September 27, and has now passed all of its required health tests and has been approved for release.

“We are very fortunate to have a specialized rescue facility and trained staff here in Los Angeles with the skills and experience to give this Tropicbird a second chance,” says Jay Holcomb, International Bird Rescue’s Director Emeritus. “We have also had great support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the USDA, who have helped ensure swift and safe passage back home for this beautiful seabird.”

While this bird’s story is special, International Bird Rescue believes that every bird matters, and does everything it can to give each of the seabirds and aquatic birds that pass through its doors all that they need to survive and thrive. International Bird Rescue welcomes donations to help offset its expenses for not just the Tropicbird, but each of the 5,000 birds that arrive at its centers every year.
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October 24, 2011

Oiled Wildlife Response is a Team Sport

Little Blue Penguin on haulout in recovery pool at Rena New Zealand oil spill

Our latest update on the Rena Spill is brought to you by International Bird Rescue’s Preparedness Director, Curt Clumpner, who is on site in New Zealand working with Massey University in the role of Wildlife Center Deputy.

For those of you who don’t pay much attention to rugby “we” won the Rugby World Cup Sunday night. Much of the wildlife team watched it on one of the big screens in the hotel lobby. The wildlife team’s Kiwis and Americans all stood and sang the New Zealand national anthem (the Americans really only hummed) and cheered and groaned through a very close game, 8-7 New Zealand over France. The All-Blacks perform a ‘Haka’ at midfield facing the opposing team just before the start of each game. The ‘Haka’ is a traditional Maori war dance/challenge meant to intimidate the opponent. It is hard to describe but involves fierce faces, stomping and tongue wagging and in most cases it would cause tears in small children. It was a very exciting game even if we (the Americans) did not understand the rules very well. International Bird Rescue’s Barbara Callahan was waving her All-Blacks flag. Kerri Morgan from Massey University was pacing nervously and every so often someone in the room would yell a somewhat plaintive “come on boys”. In the end though “we” prevailed and there was much joy and relief. In my section of the hotel the neighbors were celebrating long into the night. At the wildlife center next morning there were more than a few people who seem to have developed a World Cup “flu” and it was Labor Day holiday, but we still had a good crew who got on with it.

One of the great things about going on international responses is the chance to work with different species. In this case we are working mostly with Little Blue Penguins, which I worked with 16 years ago during the Iron Baron spill in Australia, but also diving petrels, pied shags, and occasionally white-fronted terns, fluttering petrels and New Zealand Dotterels. In oiled wildlife care the principles pretty much hold true across species but the details may be different and learning the details and applying them correctly is always an interesting puzzle to work out.

It makes it much easier when the team contains members with a depth of local knowledge and experience with the species and that is one of the things that is great about the team that Maritime New Zealand and Massey University has put together. Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) (pronounced em-en-zed in this part of the world) contracts with the vet school at Massey University in Palmerston North much the same way California’s wildlife system is built around the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at UC Davis. OWCN’s Director Dr Mike Ziccardi is also here as part of the team, stepping in wherever needed from seals to dirty birds to the Incident Control Center. They have a National Response Team here that trains yearly.

Oiled Wildlife Center in New Zealand.

For New Zealand the good news/bad news is that there has not been a spill that has impacted large numbers of animals – the Rena has been called the worst environmental disaster in New Zealand history – so their one weakness is that there is not a lot of real world spill experience on the team. This is why they asked International Bird Rescue to help. We have had a strong relationship with the New Zealand program for a number of years, networking, exchanging information, collaborating on workshops at conferences and, during the Prestige spill response in Spain, bringing in Massey’s then team leader Richard Norman as part of our wildlife team to gain some real world international response experience. Two years ago I was also invited to participate as one of the instructors for yearly oiled wildlife core team training at Massey University and so already knew many of the wonderful team we are working with now.

Curt Clumpner
Preparedness Director
International Bird Rescue

Stay tuned for more updates from our team in New Zealand in the coming days

M/V Rena Live Wildlife Data as of October 24, 2011
Oiled Live Little Blue Penguins 107
Un-oiled Live Little Blue Penguins 186
NZ Dotterel 60
Pied Shag 3
White-Fronted Tern 1
Grand Total Live At Facility 357
August 4, 2011

Every Toad Matters Too

International Bird Rescue has been working on the oil spill in the Yellowstone River in Montana for a month now. To date we have received 59 animals:  an American Robin, a Cooper’s Hawk, a Yellow Warbler, a Canadian Goose, 6 Western Terrestrial Garter Snakes, a Bullfrog, a Leopard Frog, and 47 Woodhouse’s Toads.

So why all the toads?
Toads and frogs abound in and around the Yellowstone River. Frogs stay within the watery and moist areas along the river banks, but toads seem to be everywhere – in fields, on sand bars, on the roads, in our washing tent, in our boots – everywhere. There are thousands of baby toads covering the ground, so many that you have to constantly watch your step in order to avoid squishing them. Many came from eggs in ponds that were away from the riverbed and were more or less secure when the rushing waters rose. We thought that many toads along the riverbed had been washed away in the flood, but the more we visit islands in the river that were previously inaccessible to us, the more we recognize how much we underestimated the toads’ ability to adapt.

About two weeks ago, we observed adult and thumbnail-sized baby toads on some of the islands that had been completely underwater. The current had been too strong for toads to swim to these islands. We concluded that the toads had been underground or were able to burry into the logjams of trees, branches and other debris, until the water receded and the environment suited them.

The receding waters left small pools with surface oil and oily mud around heavily oiled logjams. As the land becomes drier, the logjams and the puddles are an attractive place for toads. Although crews are cleaning up oiled debris in these hot spots very quickly, some toads were oiled as they foraged. There remains a considerable amount of land to cover, and we continue to monitor these areas and collect any wildlife in need.

How do you wash a toad or frog?
The process of washing an amphibian is easier than that for washing a bird because you are cleaning skin not feathers. We use a very light solution of Dawn in tepid water. A toad is submerged up to its neck, and we use our fingertips to wash off the oil just as you would do if you were washing your hands. For oil around the face and eyes we use a Waterpik, cotton swabs and our fingertips to loosen the oil. The toad is then rinsed and allowed to swim in fresh water for a short time to rinse off any additional soap. It is released in a clean and suitable toad area. All of the oiled amphibians in this spill have been healthy and viable animals, and all have been released in the same day that they came to us.

Jay Holcomb
Director Emeritus
International Bird Rescue

October 14, 2010

Audubon Gulf spill report: Birds still at risk

Our friends at Audubon, the national bird advocacy group, has an excellent report out this week entitled: Oil and Birds: Too Close for Comfort. The 28 page illustrated report details the lasting effects from the nation’s largest maritime disaster from the BP oil leak on the Louisiana’s Coast and its avian residents.

The Audubon Society says the residual oil and chemicals from BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster still pose substantial risks to birds that breed or nest along hard-hit areas of the Louisiana coast.

“People shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that the danger to birds and the environment is over just because the oil stopped flowing,” said Audubon President & CEO David Yarnold. “It’s going to take years of monitoring just to understand and start dealing with the long-term impacts of the oil — and they’re just part of a much bigger threat.”

The offshore oil drilling rig exploded and sank in April 2010 about 45 miles off the Louisiana coast. After 87 days of leaking 200+ million gallons of crude, the rig was finally capped. More than 8100 birds were officially affected by the spill. Of those, 6100 were collected dead. IBRRC worked with Tri-State Bird Rescue to help stabilize, treat and clean as many oiled birds as possible. More than 1,200 birds were released back to the wild.

See the Audubon press release.

To read the full report, download it here. (PDF 4 MB)

July 28, 2010

Big hearts, youthful passion to help oiled birds

The Gulf oil spill catastrophe and the plight of the wildlife has touched many around the country. We continue to receive numerous e-mails, phone calls, and contributions in support of our organization’s effort.

One of the great joys is to see children who have been inspired to get involved. Lemonade has been a big seller. Some kids do art. Others a bake sale. In each example, big hearts and young minds come together to give us all hope. Some of these stories follow:

In Martinez, California, 3 year-old Zachary Bigelow wanted to help so bad he was ready to hop a flight down to the Gulf States to lend a hand. He settled on a local lemonade stand. His mom, Allie, explains:

Zachary first learned about the oil spill on the news radio and then saw photos of the birds that were affected by it in the New York Times and online and they really upset him. His initial “plan” was that he thought he should head on down to the Gulf Coast on his own to clean the birds, but I had to squash that idea (we will do that when he is a little bit older). He settled for the idea of donating some money for them and decided he wanted to have a lemonade stand since he didn’t have much in his piggy bank at the time. 

He wrote a letter to the Trader Joe’s store in Concord (Concord Avenue) and asked them to donate lemonade; they generously provided him with 2 cases of organic lemonade. He then asked the manager of the Sports Basement store in Walnut Creek if he could sell his lemonade in front of their store; they were very helpful in finding a good weekend that would guarantee lots of traffic. He asked friends to bake goodies to sell to improve his profits; our friends Adam Welcome and Erica Kain provided some really delicious baked goods for him to sell. He made all of his signs himself and did all of the selling unassisted…mom and dad were just there to pour! When all was said and done he sold lemonade for 6 hours, selling every single drop of lemonade donated by T.J.’s and every last cookie and brownie and raised $355.

Over the Fourth of July, kids in Evanston, Illinois raised money for rescuers by selling lemonade.

And from New York we got this note and photo from Alicia Salzer:

“I just want to thank you for the work that you do. My daughter Piper, age 5 was so upset by the idea that birds were being hurt by the oil spill that she decided to make special painted sea shells and sell them out of her red wagon on Fire Island here in New York. Everyone who passed stopped to look and when Piper told them about the cause she was supporting of course they bought up those shells and in a few minutes we had totally depleted her “stock”.” 

“I recently sent in her donation of $26 via your website. But I wanted to also send you a little picture of her hard at work in the hopes it warms your heart as it did mine and inspires you to keep up the great work that you do caring for creatures caught in the crossfire.”

Another young fellow, Jonathan, who is only 4 years old, helped his mom sell Pelican Aid Lemonade near his home in New Orleans instead of selling off his treasured toys.

“I want to help the pelicans,” Jonathan said, realizing he couldn’t help save oiled wildlife directly. “Because (the oil will) get in my eyes and ears and nose and mouth.”

Read the full article

July 25, 2010

Move to new Hammond bird center a success

We’re happy to report the move to the new Hammond, Louisiana bird rescue center went smoothly Friday morning. Here’s an update:

The move was a great success! 

At 2:30 AM yesterday morning, staff from Tri-State Bird Rescue, IBRRC and Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART) arrived to the facility and began preparing the birds for their journey to Hammond. They were given rehydrating fluids and placed into carriers. The carriers were then lined up according to size and species. When the large Transport trucks arrived at 4:00 AM, the birds were systematically loaded – the most frail were loaded last so they would be offloaded first. They were on the road before 5:00 AM. It went incredibly smoothly and according to plan.

By 7:00 AM, the first of nearly 400 birds arrived and were in their new enclosures. Outside, clean birds were placed into large enclosures with foliage and water features. Almost immediately the birds began bathing and exploring their new enclosures. Inside, the critical birds were placed into their new cages that had been warmed in preparation for their arrival. No birds were harmed or lost in this move.

This new facility, located near Hammond’s Northshore Regional Airport sits on over 7 acres. It offers 4 large sheltered areas being used for outdoor housing and three large warehouses that have been retrofitted for our operations.

–Rebecca Dmytryk, IBRRC Media Relations Assistant

Hammond is about 60 miles north of New Orleans above Lake Pontchartrain. The new site is out of the hurricane ‘evacuation zone’.

Initially, the Hammond Bird Rehabilitation Facility will be capable of handling approximately 1,000 birds, and capacity could be increased to house as many as 2,000 to 3,000 birds.

Oiled animals that continue to come in through Venice and Port Sulphur, Louisiana will receive first aid at a stabilization site nearby before being transferred to the wildlife center in Hammond. Since we do not wash oiled birds right away this will not delay their treatment.

June 8, 2010

Heavily oiled birds and response "blame game"

With more oiled birds coming into Gulf Oiled Wildlife Centers each day, Executive Director, Jay Holcomb, takes time to update and explain the spill response from IBRRC’s perspective:

As you can see we have had a significant spike in the number of birds that we are receiving in the Ft. Jackson center here in Louisiana. (See: Updated bird numbers) This is because a section of the oil slick has come to shore near Grand Isle and birds living in that area are now being impacted. Many of the birds that you have seen on the news are birds that are currently here at the center. I know that it is heartbreaking to see these pictures, but they are an accurate and true depiction of what is going on here. Nothing is worse than an innocent animal covered in oil helplessly struggling to survive. Heavily oiled birds always become the symbol of any oil spill when images are taken and that is appropriate as they clearly show what can happen in a massive spill. 

We have been busy here working with the birds and putting in long hours so I do not always get the time to write on the blog but there are a few things I wanted to share with our readers.

First, the pelicans that are here are in good health but very heavily oiled. I tell the media that they look like they are fondued – more or less dipped in the oil. That is because the fish they eat often swim and hide below floating surface oil and when the pelicans plunge into the water to catch them, they become oiled. A few of our field teams have witnessed this and actually seen fish jumping onto the oil and then watch as a gull or pelican goes after it and then becomes oiled. The ocean here is teaming with fish so it stands to reason that this would happen. The things that are working in our favor are that these are healthy and strong birds and the oil is aged enough so that it does not have much smell to it or volatile aromatics. That is the better part of this but what is a problem for the birds and us is that the oil is very gooey and thick. It is taking about 45 minutes to an hour to wash each bird as we have to pre-treat the birds with a warmer light oil to loosen the crude oil up and then wash the bird using DAWN dishwashing liquid. Lots of it! We are getting it off but it takes some scrubbing.

Another thing in the birds favor is that it is very warm this time of year and the birds are able to survive longer than birds in colder climates. This is in the birds favor but is debilitating for the people working on the birds. We have to shift our people and it’s a difficult situation for us in that respect. The other birds such as gulls and herons have a more difficult time with being this oiled. A few have died so far but many are making it also. They require a lot of supportive care.

I also want to mention the great people that are here helping to care for the birds. There are the response team members of Tri-state Bird Rescue Research Inc. and our team from IBRRC but also many individuals that are part of the Louisiana State Animal Rescue Team (LSART). The LSART helps us by bringing in people from all backgrounds including wildlife rehabilitators and veterinarians that are all based in Louisiana. They are making up a large part of the work force and are really great. I need to mention that it is very important to give these people the opportunity to contribute first to helping offset the impact of the spill by helping us. They survived Hurricane Katrina and are now dealing with this situation. So, in that sense it’s appropriate that we use local resources first to fill in the ranks of our expanded rehab teams. As I have mentioned before, there are literally thousands of people who have been wait-listed who want to help. They will be called in as needed but so far they are not. It’s as simple as that.

I also feel the need to mention the “blame game” that I am not a stranger to. As you may have seen, I play a few key roles here at the Ft. Jackson Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. First, I provide oversight for the rehabilitation program as I have had many years of experience in managing large scale oiled wildlife rehabilitation efforts and can use that experience to our advantage. Secondly, I took on the role of External Affairs person because I knew that this would be an explosive and political situation when I first heard of this incident and therefore I felt that I was best suited to act as the voice for our efforts to rehabilitate these birds. So, I manage the intense media attention that has been put on the rehabilitation program. I like the media and I can speak to them from a historical perspective, a wildlife rehabilitation perspective and from a place of transparency as I agree that the world needs to see what is happening in this situation here in the gulf.

We have been allowing the media into the center every day from 1 to 2pm, usually longer, in the afternoon to do interviews, see the birds and get the stories. Now that we are getting very busy we are changing that to 3 times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1 to 3pm just so we can focus on the birds as giving the media their fair time takes a lot of attention away from our work. I request that everyone understand that this has been put into place for the sake of the animals and respect our new schedule.

Lets talk about the blame game real quick before I hit the sack. One of the questions I get every day from reporters is, “How does this spill compare to the Exxon Valdez oil spill?” well, there are many similarities and differences. Most notably the environment, weather and species impacted are vastly different but what is similar are the politics. This a big spill with a large oil company, a lot of scrutiny and a lot of people blaming each other. That is what it is but it was just a matter of time until the wildlife rehabilitators got blamed also. I knew this going into it. IBRRC and Tri-State are contracted by BP to manage the rehabilitation of the birds that are oiled in this spill so some think that we have signed over our rights as independent organizations. Nothing is farther from the truth. We have worked with the oil industry or whoever is the responsible party since 1971 to provide our unique, proven and qualified services of rehabilitating oiled birds and other wildlife. Collectively our organizations have responded to about 400 oil spills ranging from tens of thousands of birds to just a few and may I humbly state that we are the most qualified groups in the world to manage a program such as this one. We work very well together and become one large team in large-scale events such as this oil spill.

Our amazing founder, Alice Berkner, always said to me that the reason that she got involved in this work was because she felt somewhat responsible as a credit card holder of the company who was responsible for the spill in 1971 that initiate the founding of IBRRC. (See: Founders Perspective) I have always felt that way also. Her bottom line was that we all use oil products but are quick to pass the buck when oil is spilled and that seemed irresponsible. She was transparent in her initial approach to the petroleum industry. Alice wanted to help the birds with protocols based in sound science and manage oiled wildlife rehab programs with proven crisis management systems, so she created IBRRC to do just that. Instead of attacking the oil industry for the spills, which everyone else was doing, she gave them a solution and that was to use IBRRC to help offset some of the damage that oil spills do to the environment as no one was doing that back then. That began a steep learning curve that is still going on today and we have managed to improve the care we give to the birds immensely over the years.

So, here we are, almost 40 years on with a lot of experience and expertise under our belts and something we can offer to once again help in the clean up of the spill by helping these animals that really are our collective responsibility to care for. They belong to us, they are precious and they need our help. Here in Louisiana we are caring for them as best we know how right now in 2010. We will be blamed for our association with the oil industry, accused of selling out etc. We already have been. It’s nothing new to us. So, for the blamers out there please keep in mind that as you drive your car or are reading this on your computer that your life was made a hell of a lot easier because of oil and we all have benefited greatly from it. So who is to blame? No one! BP is accountable for their accident here in the gulf and they are being held accountable, as they should be. But we the people are also accountable as consumers of the products the petroleum industry provides us and maybe the silver lining in this horrific and catastrophic event is that people will wake up and ask themselves this question. “Is the cost of exploring for, using and transporting fossil fuels and their byproducts worth the risk?” Look at that iconic picture of the gull covered in oil from this spill. If you can live with that, drive your car, discard your plastic water bottles and tell your kids that it is all OK then go for it. If not then change the future through taking some level of responsibility about what has happened, use your brain, your intent and your desire to change the future of how we fuel our world. Stop blaming everyone for what you had a hand in creating. No one is right or wrong here. We are all in this together. It’s just about the choices we make, individually and collectively, and maybe its time to evaluate those choices. Everything is an opportunity and maybe that is the opportunity that this spill is providing for us.– a chance to reevaluate how we move into the future and protect our earth while enjoying our lives. Think about it.

Its 4 am and I am going to get a tiny bit of shut eye.

Later! – Jay, from Fort Jackson, Louisiana

International Bird Rescue is working with the main responder, Tri-State Bird Rescue of Delaware. IBRRC more than 20 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

The oil spill involves a ruptured drilling platform approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded on April 20, 2010 and sank in 5,000 feet of water. More than 100 workers scrambled off the burning rig in lifeboats. 11 workers died.

At least 40 million gallons of crude has been dumped into the Gulf of Mexico and harmed fragile breeding grounds for Brown Pelicans and other shorebirds. Six weeks after the blow out, BP has yet to significantly stem the flow in the nation’s worst oil disaster.

June 4, 2010

Update from the center of Gulf oiled bird care

The numbers of severely oiled birds jumped yesterday and Jay Holcomb returns with his updates from the BP Gulf Oil Spill wildlife response:

Well, I am sure by now you have all seen the pictures of the oiled birds that were captured in Grand Isle, Louisiana. We are busy today with those birds and I have been delinquent in writing current blog postings. I will begin again tonight and keep you all updated. 

Please know that we are all doing well here, unhappy like you that this is happening, but we have a great master plan to offset as much damage to the birds as we can. For those of you who are asking about ways that you can either support us or donate to us, I thank you for your generosity. I also want you all to understand that this entire oiled bird rehabilitation effort is being paid for by BP. This is appropriate as they are the Responsible Party for this spill.

If you would like to send donations then please keep in mind that your local wildlife rehabilitation organization really needs your help also. They care for the same wild animals that are being impacted by the spill. A pelican is a pelican whether is it tangled in fishing tackle or oiled! Please send support to your local wildlife rehabilitation organizations. You can also support IBRRC and Tri-State’s ongoing bird rehabilitation efforts if you like and that information is available on our web sites.

Talk to you very soon,

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC Executive Director from Fort Jackson, Louisiana

International Bird Rescue is working with the main responder, Tri-State Bird Rescue of Delaware. IBRRC more than 20 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

The oil spill involves a ruptured drilling platform approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded on April 20, 2010 and sank in 5,000 feet of water. More than 100 workers scrambled off the burning rig in lifeboats. 11 workers died.

At least 40 million gallons of crude has been dumped into the Gulf of Mexico and harmed fragile breeding grounds for Brown Pelicans and other shorebirds. Six weeks after the blow out, BP has yet to significantly stem the flow in the nation’s worst oil disaster.

May 22, 2010

New Gulf update: Oiled bird numbers increase

On the one month anniversary of the Gulf Oil Leak here’s the latest wildlife update from IBRRC’s Jay Holcomb:

Yesterday we received 3 more oiled birds at the Fort Jackson oiled bird rehabilitation facility. The included: One Brown Pelican, one Ruddy Turnstone and Semipalmated Sandpiper. No other birds were received at any of the other facilities. (Photo above, oiled Brown Pelican intake in Louisiana)

On Wednesday of this week we received another three oiled Northern Gannets in Fort Jackson and we continued washing and rehabilitating birds in Louisiana.

Our search and collection teams, working under the direction of the US Fish & Wildlife Service, continued patrolling impacted and other areas in the outer regions of the Mississippi River Delta region. Many healthy looking clean birds were sighted in the areas they covered and a few partially oiled birds were sighted here and there but were unable to be captured.

One oiled Brown Pelican came into the Pensacola, Florida bird rehabilitation center and one oiled Gannet came into the Theodore, Alabama rehabilitation center.

The complete list of birds received and under care are listed on our website A total of 27 live oiled birds have received in to Gulf wildlife care centers.

As always, we appreciate your concern,

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC Executive Director

International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) is working with the main responder, Tri-State Bird Rescue of Delaware. IBRRC has about 20 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

May 21, 2010

Video: Explaining how oiled birds get washed

Jay Holcomb of IBRRC explains why it’s so important to remove oil from a birds feathers. He also describes how an oiled pelican captured at the Gulf Oil leak is cleaned of crude this week at the Fort Jackson Oiled Wildlife Center in Louisiana.

When a bird encounters oil on the surface of the water, the oil sticks to its feathers, causing them to mat and separate, impairing the waterproofing and exposing the animals 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.

May 19, 2010

Day 17: Making strides on oiled bird capture

A quick update follows on the Gulf Oil Leak wildlife response from IBRRC’s Jay Holcomb:

Tuesday was a good day for the capture teams on the water as the weather allowed our teams, who are working as part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) bird capture program, to cover a large area of water. Over 6,000 birds were sighted and most of them were clean. Oiled birds were found here and there and a total of 4 oiled birds were brought into the Fort Jackson bird rehabilitation facility in Louisiana – a brown pelican, least tern, northern gannet and a laughing gull. 

One oiled brown pelican was captured and brought into the Alabama facility on Tuesday also.

Search and collection efforts and the rehabilitation of the birds at these facilities are continuing.

Thanks for your interest,

– Jay Holcomb, IBRRC Executive Director

International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) is working with the main responder, Tri-State Bird Rescue of Delaware. IBRRC has about 20 response team members on the ground including veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitation managers and facilities and capture specialists.

The oil spill involves a ruptured drilling platform approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded on April 20, 2010 and sank in 5,000 feet of water.

The leak continues to spill oil into Gulf waters and BP has made some progress in plugging the gush of crude from the ocean floor. So far, experts believe the amount of oil in the water has surpassed the 11 million gallons spilled during the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.