Remembering the Gulf Oil Spill Response

“Populations are made up of individuals, and if you start looking at individuals as if they’re not important, then ultimately the population becomes unimportant.”

– Jay Holcomb, Director Emeritus, International Bird Rescue, in the film Saving Pelican 895, which airs starting April 20 on HBO

Rescuing Birds During the Gulf Oil Spill

First oiled Brown Pelican was was washed at the Fort Jackson Center in Louisiana.

When the BP Deepwater Horizon well blew out on April 20, 2010, International Bird Rescue’s team of bird rescue specialists immediately responded with an all-hands-on-deck effort to rescue oiled seabirds and stop the loss of life. International Bird Rescue teamed up with Tri-State Bird Rescue, the lead oiled wildlife organization on the ground, to initiate bird rescue efforts on the water and help staff rehabilitation centers in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

This massive oil spill tested the nerves and stamina of our team, as we saw more than 200 million gallons of oil leaked into gulf waters, and over 8,000 birds captured and collected. The oil-stained beaches, marshland and inlets ran from Louisiana to Florida. At its busiest moment, Bird Rescue had approximately 88 trained wildlife responders working on this spill. The leaking rig was finally capped on July 15—about 11 weeks after the blowout. See also: Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill detailed wildlife reports

Oiled Brown and White Pelicans before and after cleaning at 2010 Gulf Oil Spill.

International Bird Rescue and Tri-State Bird Rescue had to navigate politics, the media, and the weather, in finding, collecting, treating and releasing birds suffering from the effects of the oil spill. Thanks to hard work, cooperation and expertise, International Bird Rescue was able to help release 1,246 cleaned birds back to the wild, including Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, Green Herons, Snowy Egrets, Black Oystercatchers, Roseate Spoonbills and many others.

National Geographic’s cover story on the Gulf Spill appeared in the October 2010 issue.

The Spill in Numbers

  • 1,246 – Total cleaned birds released back to wild.
  • 8,183 – Total birds captured and collected dead or alive.
  • 4 – Gulf states where oiled birds were treated.
  • 88 – International Bird Rescue team members on the ground.
  • 6 – Months International Bird Rescue was active in the Gulf.

About International Bird Rescue

International Bird Rescue (“Bird Rescue”) has been saving seabirds and other aquatic birds around the world since 1971. Bird Rescue is dedicated to mitigating the human impact on seabirds and other aquatic bird species worldwide. This is achieved through emergency response, education, research and planning. Our team of specialists operates two year-round aquatic bird rescue centers in California, which care for over 5,000 birds every year, and has led oiled bird rescue efforts in over 220 oil spills in more than a dozen countries.


1 thought on “Remembering the Gulf Oil Spill Response”

  1. Wow…I stumbled onto “Saving Pelican 895” last night and was moved to tears of happiness for the 1246 birds that were cleaned, but sad tears for the many more birds that were not able to be saved.

    This article speaks of volunteers. Has BP “owned up” by contributing to IBRCC and Tri-State Bird Rescue? Treble damages come to mind, but at the very least the costs for the organizations and the volunteers.

    I am very impressed by the knowledge and dedication of IBRCC and Tri-State Bird Rescue – truly great folks.

    Florida, USA

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