Every Bird Matters
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Posts Tagged ‘oil’

October 27, 2011

Sweaters on oiled penguins?

Penguins
Little Blue Penguin cared for during the Rena Spill in New Zealand, 2011. Photo: Curt Clumpner

Update, 3/6/14: Every so often, the “sweaters on oiled penguins” story resurfaces in the media. “Does this work?” invariably we’re asked about using knit sweaters to keep birds warm and to prevent the preening of oiled feathers. Here’s our answer from International Bird Rescue executive director Jay Holcomb in 2011, following the Rena Oil Spill in New Zealand that affected Little Blue Penguins. The bottom line: While cute, penguin sweaters may do more harm than good to oiled birds.

 

Many of you have probably seen articles about using specially fitted sweaters made specifically for oiled penguins. This concept has come to the forefront again because of the large number of Little Blue Penguins that have been oiled in the Rena spill in New Zealand. International Bird Rescue has worked on a number of spills with four species of penguins. Each time someone asks us why we are not putting sweaters on penguins. The answer is the same for any bird, but let’s focus on penguins right now.

The intent of the sweaters is to keep the birds warm and reduce the amount of oil that they might ingest when preening. When birds are oiled, they lose their natural ability to thermoregulate. That’s because the oil sticks birds’ down and contour feathers together, temporarily impairing the ability to use these feathers to maintain body temperature.

Additionally, there are many different types of oil, and many contain irritating and toxic components. It’s common to see skin burns and irritation on birds that have heavy oil on their feathers. The last thing we want to do is to put something over their feathers that causes the oil to be pressed against their skin, or impairs the evaporation of the aromatics put off by the oil. Penguins and other birds can also overheat very quickly, and the sweaters increase this risk.

To help the birds stay warm and limit the amount of preening, we only have to do one thing — house birds in a warm, ventilated area. When birds are warm, they reduce their preening because they’re comfortable. When they’re cold, they’re stimulated to preen in an attempt to correct the loss of body heat. Our research and experience over the course of hundreds of spills has shown us that when we keep them warm while they are still oiled, birds do well.

There’s also another hazard to the sweater concept: Any handling or wearing of anything foreign to them contributes to the penguins’ stress. Reducing stress is our biggest challenge in an oil spill. Sweaters can be cumbersome, and require a secure fit to ensure that the bird will not become entangled. When birds are kept in warm rooms without sweaters, their stress is reduced, because they do not need to be monitored or handled.

In the Treasure oil spill in 2000 in Cape Town, South Africa, International Bird Rescue worked with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) to rehabilitate over 20,000 oiled African Penguins; we successfully released 95% of them. In every oil spill where we have cared for penguins, International Bird Rescue has had at least an 80% release rate, and none of these birds wore sweaters.

Our colleagues from around the world agree that penguin sweaters are adorable and offer an avenue for concerned people to contribute, but they are not considered a useful tool for the rehabilitation of oiled birds, primarily penguins.

Jay Holcomb
Executive Director
International Bird Rescue

 

Photo right: One of the penguins being cared for at the wildlife rehabilitation facility set up at Tauranga. Image credit: Maritime New Zealand

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


March 7, 2011

Natural Seep Oiled Birds Continue to Flood IBRRC

At the end of January, International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) reported that nearly 50 oiled birds had been brought in for care after being coated with oil in a natural seep event along the Southern California coast. Since then, more than 64 new birds severely impacted by this heavy, sticky oil have arrived in our Los Angeles area rehabilitation clinic – 41 of them since February 22.

Species include many Western and Clark’s Grebes, Common Murres, Pacific Loons, California Gulls, Western Gulls, Red-throated Loons, a Northern Fulmar and a Common Loon.

Oil seeps occur naturally all along the coast of California, notably in the Santa Barbara Channel near Coal Oil Point. This area emits about 5,280 to 6,600 gallons of oil per day. Oil can be lethally harmful to seabirds—particularly to diving birds that spend a great deal of time on the surface of the water where the oil sits. It interferes with the birds’ ability to maintain their body temperature by impairing the natural insulation and waterproofing properties of their feathers, which can result in hypothermia, as their metabolisms try to combat the cold. Oiled birds often beach themselves in this weakened state, and become easy prey for other animals.

Preparing for Natural Seep Oiled Birds

IBRRC knows, from 40 years of experience, to anticipate these birds every year, with the largest number coming in during the winter months. This year, however, has been a particularly challenging one, as severe storms move seep oil around at a time when large numbers of migratory birds are utilizing offshore areas as their feeding grounds.

Who pays for their care?

In the case of a natural event, there is no responsible party to cover the costs of caring for oiled wildlife, and IBRRC and other rehabilitation organizations rely heavily on the public’s help. California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) has generously provided some funding, yet the remaining costs to treat and care for these birds continues to grow as more oil disperses along the coast.

Please consider making a donation today. Every bird matters, and so does every gift.

March 5, 2011

Gulf Spill: Working Together for Wildlife Award

Emergency response teams from International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) and three other wildlife organizations have received national recognition for collaborative care of oiled animals during the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill.

The Marlys J. Bulander Working Together for Wildlife Award was presented to IBRRC, Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, Louisiana State Animal Response Team (LSART) and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. The announcement was made at the annual National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) meeting in Albany, New York.

This award is given to those who have brought together individuals, organizations, rehabilitation facilities, and agencies in a cooperative effort to make a positive difference for wildlife.

The four organizations joined forces to care for the thousands of birds and other animals affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010 off the coast of Louisiana. Together they built, organized and ran four oiled bird rehabilitation centers – the first in Ft. Jackson, Louisiana and second in Hammond, LA. The others were set up in Alabama and Mississippi. They also helped manage oiled wildlife stabilization sites at Grand Isle, Venice, and Intra-Coastal City, LA.

IBRRC had about 90 members of its response team helping in four states in the Gulf of Mexico region. This collaborative effort has led to the release of 1,170 birds to date.

NWRA judges praised the speed and purpose with which the teams responded to the largest oil spill in United States history, as more than 200 million gallons of crude spilled from a ruptured drilling rig 45 miles off the Louisiana coast.

IBRRC is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and is a world leader in oiled wildlife emergency response, rehabilitation, research and education. Its team of specialists has led rescue efforts in over 200 oil spills in 11 States, two U.S. territories, and 7 different countries.

IBRRC is equally proud of the care it provides to the more than 5,000 injured, hungry, or orphaned birds that come into its two California wildlife care centers each year. It is committed to ensuring that every bird impacted by changes to their environment is given hope to survive and thrive.

January 25, 2011

Natural Oil Seep Prompts Bird Rescue in Calif.

Nearly 50 oiled birds have been in care this month at International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) after being coated with oil in a natural seep event along the Southern California coast.

Since January 6, 2011, IBRRC has received 28 Western Grebes, 18 Common Murres, a Common Loon, a Pacific Loon and a Clark’s Grebe.

IBRRC receives many birds that are contaminated with natural seep oil in our rehabilitation clinics year round. Birds are often severely impacted by this heavy, sticky oil, and it presents numerous challenges to our rehabilitation staff.

Oil seeps occur naturally all along the coast of California, notably in the Santa Barbara Channel near Coal Oil Point. This area emits about 5,280 to 6,600 gallons of oil per day. Natural seeps have been active for hundreds to thousands of years and have been documented by early explorers and by coast-dwelling Chumash Indians who used the oil in many ways including waterproofing baskets and constructing wooden canoes.

Impact to Birds

Oil can be lethally harmful to seabirds—particularly to diving birds that spend a great deal of time on the surface of the water where the oil sits. It interferes with the birds’ ability to maintain their body temperature by impairing the natural insulation and waterproofing properties of their feathers, which can result in loss of body weight, as their metabolisms try to combat the cold, and death from hypothermia. Oiled birds often beach themselves in this weakened state, and consequently become easy prey for other animals.

Preparing for Natural Seep Oiled Birds

Each bird that is impacted by natural seep oil is part of a larger population, but we know that every one is important in its own right and deserves the best possible care. We also know, from 40 years of experience, to anticipate these birds every year, with the largest number of birds coming in during the winter months. At this time of year, storms tend to move seep oil around while large numbers of migratory birds are utilizing offshore areas as their feeding grounds. Since their arrival at our rehabilitation clinics is predictable, we have endeavored to schedule our international interns around the birds’ arrival so that our trainees can be immersed in the complexities of oiled bird rehabilitation. The interns get invaluable, one-of-a-kind experience and the birds get the highest quality care.

Who pays for their care?

IBRRC has received natural seep oiled birds since our inception in 1971. As this is considered a “natural” event, with no responsible party, IBRRC and other wildlife rehabilitation organizations rely on the public to help cover the costs of caring for these birds. In recent years California’s Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) has generously provided some funding, however, the remaining cost is substantial in stormy years like this one when more natural seep oil is dispersed along the coast.

October 31, 2009

Massive oil leak in Timor Sea off Australia

Half way around the world from the San Francisco Bay oil spill, a massive oil leak in Timor Sea, may turn into an ecological disaster if scientists’ warnings are correct.

Gilly Llewellyn, a World Wildlife Federation (WWF) biologist who led a survey team of the spill, is quoted in The Indepedent saying “If the oil were washing up on beaches, there’d be national outrage.”

Since Aug. 21, 2009, an estimated 400 barrels of oil a day have been spilling out of a ruptured drilling rig in a remote area some 155 miles off Western Australian. The company that owns it, PTTEP Australasia, a branch of Thai-owned PTT Exploration and Production Co. Ltd., hasn’t been able to cap the leak. News story

“Oil can be a slow and silent killer … so we can expect this environmental disaster will continue to unfold for years to come,” added Llewellyn. “This is going to have a huge footprint on an amazing part of our marine world, but it may take several years for us to detect.”

Already dead fish drifting have been spotted in Indonesia waters. Several dead birds and sea snakes have been found in oil and may have been killed by the slick, although official tests have yet to determine the deaths.


View Oil leak site in a larger map

June 6, 2009

20 years later: Finding oil from Exxon Valdez

Time Magazine has a story worth reading on the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The piece chronicles scientists studying the remnants of the 11 million gallon spill in the Prince William Sound:

…Here, on Death Marsh, Mandy Lindberg, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Alaska’s Auke Bay, turns over a shovel of sand and broken rock to reveal a glistening pool of brackish oil. The crude can be chemically typed to the Exxon Valdez, and more oil can be found beneath the beach at Death Marsh and at a number of islands around the Sound. “I wouldn’t have possibly believed the oil would last this long,” says Lindberg. “Studying the spill has been a great learning experience, but if we had known in the years after the spill what we know now, we would have been looking for oil much earlier.”

See more: Still Digging Up Exxon Valdez Oil, 20 Years Later

IBRRC report of spill response: Crude awakening

May 17, 2009

Studying natural oil seepage in Santa Barbara area

There’s an excellent report on the Santa Barbara natural oil seepage from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The study documents the 5,280 to 6,600 gallons (nearly 20 to 25 tons) of oil per day that seeps into the area waters and has been active for hundreds to thousands of years. In earlier days local Native Americans used the oil to waterproof their boats.

From the online report:

The water was calm and flat—dampened by a widespread, iridescent film of oil on the surface. Big oil patties floated about. The air smelled like diesel fuel.

By any definition, it was a classic oil spill. But we were the only boat in the area—no Coast Guard, no oil booms, no throngs of cleanup crews in white Tyvek suits, no helicopters, no media, and no shipwreck.

Why? Because this oil spill was entirely natural. The oil had seeped from reservoirs below the seafloor, leaked through cracks in the crust about 150 feet (45 meters) under water. Lighter than seawater, the escaped oil floated to the ocean surface.

Read more & view photos: While Oil Gently Seeps from the Seafloor

December 11, 2008

Santa Barbara spill update: 3 oiled birds in care

According to the California’s Oiled Care Network (OWCN), three live oiled birds are now in care following the Sunday morning leak near a Santa Barbara Channel oil platform. (Photo above of Grebe: Erica Lander/IBRRC)

The birds are being treated at the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in San Pedro. IBRRC co-manages this center as a member of OWCN. This is the OWCN’s largest oiled bird response facility in Southern California.

Greg Massey, OWCN Assistant Director, says:

“The birds are being given supportive care (food, fluids, and supplemental heat). We’ll monitor blood tests, body temperature and weight to determine when they are stable enough to be cleaned. This is a critical time for the birds as they begin to regain strength and fight the external and internal effects of oiling.”

IBRRC has three staff members in the Santa Barbara area assisting in the search and collection of oiled animals. Our organization is a proud member of OWCN, which is statewide collective of wildlife care providers and regional facilities interested in working with oil-affected wildlife.

Meantime, most of the spilled oil near Platform A has been cleaned up. A total of 1,400 gallons of oil (34 barrels) has been mopped up. Officials raised the amount of oil spilled since the December 7, 2008 incident. At one time the amount was reportedly 1,100 gallons. (Note: The standard oil barrel is 42 US gallons)

Platform A was the site of the massive January 29, 1969 oil spill. For eleven days, 3 million gallons of crude spewed out of the well, as oil workers struggled to cap the rupture.

Any injured wildlife should be reported to 877-823-6926.

Also see the new OWCN blog and website for more info.

November 12, 2008

Ticking oil spill time bomb off Central CA coast?

A sunken oil tanker hit by a Japanese submarine torpedoes nearly 70 years ago, may be a ticking oil spill time bomb off the central coast of California.

The “Montebello” sits in 900 feet of water about six miles from Cambria at the southern edge of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Most of its original cargo – 4.1 million gallons of crude oil – is intact.

The 440-foot tanker is one of the hundreds of sunken ships off the west coast. It sunk on Dec. 23, 1941, just 16 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It had just departed Port San Luis, where it was loaded with 75,000 barrels of Santa Maria crude. It was heading north to Vancouver, British Columbia before it was sunk 170 miles south of San Francisco.

Two formal expeditions have dived on the ship, the first in 1996 and the most recent in 2003. Now covered in bioluminescent anemone and draped with fishing nets, divers said they found the hull in decent shape in the latest dive. According to one theory, the tanks are still in one piece partly because pressure from the semisolid oil on the inside is keeping the hull from leaking.


View Larger Map

High cost of environmental damage

Why should we care about these sunken tankers? Besides the obvious answer of ruptured tanker holds leaking oil, we’re concerned about oil causing injury to birds unlucky enough to find themselves in the middle of a slick.

For years, IBRRC took in thousands of oiled birds picked up from a “mystery spill” that hit beaches from Ocean Beach in San Francisco south to Half Moon Bay. Thousands of Common Murres were oiled during this chronic oiling. The oil was finally linked to the S.S. Jacob Luckenbach that sunk in 1953 approximately 17 miles southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge off of San Francisco. The “fingerprint” of this oil matches oil taken from tarballs and oiled feathers from past “mystery spills” in 1992-93, 1997-98, 1999, and Feb. 2001.

The Luckenbach was cleaned of its leaking oil in the spring of 2002. The Coast Guard and the Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) managed a contractor that pumped out an estimated 300,000 gallons of oil at a cost of nearly $20 million. The job was completed in October 2002.

Read more online:

Monterey County Weekly

New Times

Los Angeles Times

California Connected

January 23, 2008

One more Argentina oil spill update

Direct from Patagonia, Jay Holcomb, IBRRC’s Executive Director, sent this latest update on the Argentina oil spill response:

Today we finished washing most of the birds accept about 8 of the last penguins. We also washed the 4 new oiled cormorants and 5 rewash cormorants that still had wet underwings meaning that they likely have oil on them. So, other than a bird here and there we are more or less shutting down the wash room for daily activity.

We released 6 steamer ducks at a perfect place where they joined about 80 others. We also released 18 cormorants at the same place and they did equally well.

We then began go grade (check for waterproofing) the first group of penguins for release. We approved 22 penguins that will be released tomorrow and early in the morning we are evaluating another 50 or so. All penguins have been put on a very aggressive swimming schedule that will help them become waterproof asap.

We only have 7 grebes left and will reevaluate them on Friday. We have a total of 9 cormorants and will evaluate them on Sunday or Monday since they were just washed today. We have 3 ducks. One is in treatment for a swollen wing but the other 2 are still wet on their stomachs and they will also evaluated in a few days.

I forgot to mention that another very large slick came to shore yesterday and that was quite discouraging to us. There are more oiled cormorants and an occasional oiled bird here and there. Not sure what will happen after we leave as we made an internal agreement to get the other birds out before we leave and just leave penguins.

See IBRRC website

November 17, 2007

Washing birds of oil: Almost there

Note: This is Jay Holcomb’s latest update from inside the bird rehabilitation center in Cordelia:

We currently have about 970 Live birds at the center and over 200 of them have made it to the pools and are reconditioning their feathers, eating and resting. By no means are they home free but they are 75% through the rehabilitation process.

People think it’s all about washing the birds. Well, that clearly is an important part of the process but the care they get prior to wash and after the wash is equally as important. I wanted to explain why the pool time is so important to these birds. Here we go.

Aquatic birds have the amazing ability to live in very cold climates. This is because they have an insulating coat of feathers that protects them from the elements. When they get oiled, the feathers matt and the birds are exposed to the cold. Their aquatic environment, the one thing that provided safety, now becomes the main factor that plays into their demise. They are forced to get out of the water and become vulnerable to predators and weather conditions. Hopefully they are captured and cared for by groups like IBRRC who have experience in doing this work.

Fast forward to the wash

When we wash the birds we remove all the petroleum from their feathers and they are 100% clean. They go from the wash tub to the rinse station and there the soap, in our case Dawn dishwashing liquid, is rinsed thoroughly out of their feathers. The most amazing thing happens. As we rinse the soap out of their feathers with high pressure nozzles, their feathers actually become dry. So in essence we are drying their feathers with clean hot water. Its pretty cool and we are always amazed at their feathers natural ability to repel water.

When the rinsing process is complete and all of the soap out of the feathers, the bird goes immediately into a drying pen. There the bird is dried with warm air from pet dryers. The same dryers used in grooming dogs. After the bird is 100% dry it goes into a pool and begins to swim, eat, bathe and preen its feathers. Each feather has microscopic barbs and barbule hookelets that are woven together during the preening process creating a water tight barrier and since the feathers are naturally repelling water, they all work together to provide an overall insulative barrier on the birds body like shingles on a roof.

Here is the biggest misconception:
People think that we or the birds have to restore their natural oils. That is incorrect. Birds feathers are naturally waterproof as proven in the rinse. So, all the bird has to do is preen and get its feathers back in alignment and our job is to make sure the bird is clean and monitored while it is going through this process. The natural oils are really a conditioning agent that come from a gland at the base of the tail. Its called the uropygial gland and it aids in long term feather conditioning.

So, we move the birds in and out of the pools as they get their feathers aligned and become waterproof. Once they are waterproof and can stay in the pools then they are well on their way to release. They have to eat, rest. exercise, we need to monitor them for anemia, weight gain etc. but the waterproofing process is intense and I wanted to explain it as best I could so people understand a bit of the process.

Next time I will talk about the criteria we use for release of the birds.

Thanks everyone for your support and well wishes. We are grateful beyond words.

Jay Holcomb
Executive Director
International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC)

November 9, 2007

Dark day on San Francisco Bay

The staff here at International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) has been working non-stop for the three days rescuing as many oiled birds as possible. So far, the center in Cordelia has more than 70 birds in care.

Check out the disturbing photos on SF Chronicle’s website

The culprit of this spill is the Cosco Busan. It’s a container ship that struck the San Francisco Bay Bridge on Wednesday, November 7, 2007 causing 58,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil to dump into the bay. It was heading out to sea when the accident happened.

IBRRC was quickly alerted by mid day on Wednesday to the potential of oiled animals. As a major partner in the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), we had staff members on the water and shoreline surveying the damage to wildlife.

As spill is coating birds and other wildlife. Unless these birds are rescued soon, the oil spill potentially will endanger the lives of thousands of birds that live in and migrate through these coastal waters.

Check our website is http://www.ibrrc.org