Lab Test Rules Out PIB – Mystery Goo Bird Rescue Continues

Horned Grebe covered in mystery goo gets a good washing. Photos by Cheryl Reynolds

State lab tests today ruled out polyisobutylene (PIB) as the cause of the mystery goo that is injuring and killing birds in San Francisco Bay.

Since Friday, January 16, International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center has received more than 300 seabirds with gooey feathers caused by an unknown sticky substance. The rubber cement like goop mats the seabirds feathers causing them to lose their insulation and become hyperthermic.

To clean the birds properly, crews are using baking soda and vinegar to loosen the goo, followed by Dawn detergent and warm water to wash out the substance.

Birds rescued are coming primarily from the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay – from Alameda south to Hayward. Several Surf Scoters were found early this week on the west side of the bay in Foster City.

As the search for clues for the exact cause of the goo, International Bird Center continues to care for a growing number of affected birds. The numbers to date include 321 birds admitted with 271 live in care. A total of 135 have been washed.

California Fish and Wildlife officials are reporting another 200 birds have been found dead in the field.

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 6.03.24 PMBecause substance’s origin has not been determined, International Bird Rescue is funding this response with the generous support of public donations.

“We estimate that it costs $8,000 each day to pay for the care and washing of these seabirds, ” said Barbara Callahan, interim Executive Director of International Bird Rescue. “And we so appreciate the public’s support of these beautiful birds.”

After washing Buffleheads and Horned Grebe wade in one of the pelagic pools at the San Francisco Bay Center.
After washing Buffleheads and Horned Grebe wade in one of the pelagic pools at the San Francisco Bay Center.

Most of the seabirds affected are diving birds, including Surf Scoters, Buffleheads, Goldeneyes and Horned Grebes. A few shorebirds have also been rescued.

The search continues for stricken seabirds. Today San Francisco Baykeeper, a local conservation group, is helping International Bird Rescue by organizing additional volunteer groups to do more shoreline searches for ailing birds. Learn more

Spot an impacted bird? Report it through our an online form for public reports.

Media reports

Scientists continue to puzzle over sticky goo contaminating birds, KTVU-TV

Mystery deepens: Prime bird death suspect ruled out, SF Chronicle




4 thoughts on “Lab Test Rules Out PIB – Mystery Goo Bird Rescue Continues”

  1. I would like to volunteer to help with the bird clean up.
    There is no information on how to volunteer, no information on how to train to volunteer or if its required, just a statement that you need volunteers.

    You need to provide more information.

  2. Thanks for the volunteering questions. We’ve overwhelmed by outpouring of volunteers. Currently we need trained volunteers that have wildlife experience, so we’ve been relying on the many fine organizations in California to lend a hand. We do still need some folks to help with errands and more basic volunteering in our administrative offices.

    Please e-mail Cheryl Reynolds:

  3. Its NO mystery…Can you spell….FUKUSHIMA ! Radiation is changing the makeup of the ocean… is killing the Pacific…and has reached our shores and now possibly our Bay. Add this tragedy to the 100,000 Murres and Cassin Auklets found dead on California beaches last week….and many many other species on our coast that are dying and are in crisis. Too bad nobody cares or wants to believe its happening. So heartbreaking.

Comments are closed.