More than 80 oiled birds, mainly Western Grebes and Clark’s Grebe, have been collected over the past two weeks along the Southern California coastline after a mysterious oil spill hit the Pt. Magu area about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. 12 birds have already been cleaned of oil and been released.
The oiled birds are being found from Santa Barbara south as far as San Clemente beaches in southern Orange County. IBRRC was activated as part of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). All the affected birds are being treated at the San Pedro Bird Center which is also know as the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center (LAOBCEC).
Birds were first spotted at the Pt. Magu lagoon next to the Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station in Ventura County. OWCN team members worked together to capture, stabilize, and transport birds to San Pedro.
An oil spill of unknown origin is causing great harm to at least 430 seabirds along Argentina’s Patagonia coastline. A team from International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is responding to this remote location.
The total number of oiled animals currently in care is 430 and includes 20 steamer ducks, 200 Magellanic penguins, 180 silvery and crested grebes, 41 cormorants. The steamer ducks and Magellanic penguins are the highest conservation priority as they’re both listed as near threatened by Birdlife International.
The spill happened on December 26, 2007 in the province of Chubut, a oil producing region along the southern coast of Patagonia. The Incident name is “Patagonia Argentina Mystery Oil Spill.”
IFAW’s Emergency Relief Team is managed cooperatively by IFAW and the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) which brings over 35 years of experience responding to oiled wildlife. The team is comprised of leaders in the field of wildlife rehabilitation, biology, veterinary medicine and management.
Just as the San Francisco Bay spill response winds down, IBRRC is now busy again treating hundreds of oiled and sick birds washing ashore in Monterey Bay affected by an odd oily substance.
About 613 birds have been rescued and at least 300 are being treated at the Cordelia bird center. The incident seems be caused by a naturally occurring red tide or algae bloom in the bay waters from Marina Beach north to Santa Cruz.
The mysterious oily substance on birds was first thought to be a man-made spill. However, Dave Jessup, a California State Fish and Game senior veterinarian, says birds that turned up sick or dead weren’t killed by the San Francisco Bay oil spill or aerial spraying to eradicate the light brown apple moth.
“At this point we believe it’s related to the algae blooms,” Jessup said.
Red tide is a catchall phrase describing seawater with microscopic organisms that blooms causing it to change colors. What causes this is open to speculation: It could be weather pattern changes, fertilizer runoff after a hard rain, or a higher exposure to sunlight.
The part of the bloom sickening seabirds is a a water-soluble protein called a “surfactant.” It foams when it comes in contact with water, but state officials are still trying to determine the protein’s source.
Because the seabirds were not sickened by an oil spill or other human-caused incident, the Department of Fish and Game halted its bird rescue efforts November 27. Later this week on November 29, Fish and Game reactivated the spill response. Members of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), veterinarians from UC Davis and IBRRC’s experienced wildlife rehabilitation staff are now working on the spill.
The spill was dubbed the “Moss Landing Mystery Spill” because a large number of birds first beached themselves near Moss Landing Harbor in Monterey Bay.
As a non-profit, IBRRC is asking for public donations to offset the high cost of treating these birds. Donate Now
The International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) plays two major roles within the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN). First, IBRRC acts as the lead oiled bird response organization that, under the management of the OWCN, responds to most of the oil spills that affect birds, reptiles and fresh water aquatic mammals in California. Secondly, IBRRC is contracted to develop and teach a series of annual trainings for OWCN participants. These trainings are designed to familiarize members with concepts in oiled wildlife capture and rehabilitation.
They say things come in threes and this month it’s proving catastrophically true for oiled birds worldwide.
On the heels of the San Francisco Bay spill, this week a major spill hit the Black Sea area of Russia. Up to 30,000 birds are reported to be dead after an oil tanker leaked 560,000 gallons of oil into the sea. The tanker broke in half after encountering stormy seas. CNN Video Report
Two team members from our joint IBRRC/IFAW Emergency Response team are already on their way to help. See the IBRRC report
Closer to home, a spill of suspicious origins along Santa Cruz County beaches is causing concern. Dubbed the “Moss Landing Mystery Spill,” this spill has left nearly 100 birds tainted with a clear oily substance of unknown origins.
IBRRC’s San Pedro Bird Center was activated to handle the first wave of oiled birds. Since then the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz has also started treating birds. See IBRRC update
In addition to responding to oil spills around the world, International Bird Rescue staff work to care for birds impacted by lesser known threats like natural oil seeps under the ocean, algal blooms, marine debris, and extreme weather. We use this blog to share stories from the field and from the two California-based bird rescue centers we manage. We hope you enjoy this window into our world—we are truly passionate about caring for birds, and know that our community shares this passion. We could not do this important work without your ongoing support!