Update: Mystery Goo Bird Numbers

Horned Grebe recuperating in one of our pools. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds
Horned Grebe, cleaned of mystery goo, recuperating in pool at San Francisco Bay Center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

Nearly two months after 323 mystery goo seabirds arrived, International Bird Rescue is still treating the last of the bird patients affected by this unusual contaminant.

19 seabirds, including, Surf Scoters, Buffleheads and Horned Grebes are still among those in care. A total of 154 cleaned, healthy birds have now been returned to the wild.

The birds had their feathers coated by a sticky, non-petroleum substance that grounded them along the East Bay shore of San Francisco Bay.

Mystery Goo Numbers (as of March 14, 2015)

323 = Brought to center

154 = Released to date

110 = Humanely euthanized

40 = Dead on Arrival

19 = Birds still in care (mainly Surf Scoters)

Note: About 170 birds were collected dead by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) personnel.

Bufflehead awaits vet clearance for release. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds
Bufflehead awaits vet clearance for release. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

The 19 birds that still remain in care are those that entered our San Francisco Bay center with serious but treatable medical problems. These included severe emaciation, anemia, or injuries.

Many of these rescued birds also came to the center with pressure sores to their hocks or toes from being stranded on hard land. These injures can take months of care and healing. Other patients had surgeries for keel injuries but most of these healed quickly.


In mid-January hundreds of birds were rescued from Alameda south to Hayward in San Francisco Bay. Each was coated with an unknown tacky substance dubbed “mystery goo”.

Female Surf Scoter. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds
Female Surf Scoter. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds

On Thursday, February 12, state and federal labs concluded that the substance that coated birds includes a mixture of non-petroleum-based fats or oils. Read the full press release from California Department Fish and Wildlife: http://ow.ly/J4bZp

With still no responsible party identified to help cover the cost of bird care, International Bird Rescue’s funded most of response costs with the help of the public and foundation donations. Bird Rescue has spent $150,000 on the response and continues to rely on public support to help with costs associated with this unusual contaminant response. Donate Now

Media reports

As scientists work to identify mystery goo, rescued birds return home, Los Angeles Times, March 1 ,2015