Update on Algae-slimed Pacific NW birds

International Bird Rescue Research Center just released the last of the algae covered birds rescued from the coasts of Oregon and Washington last month. This brings the release total to 290 out of 455 birds. Considering the surprise nature of this event and the logistical challenges of getting the birds to California I think we did very well. As we said to the press, for us this was like an “oil spill without the oil”. The birds were wet and hypothermic, as they often are from oil, but were not suffering the toxics effects also associated with petroleum products. We knew from our experience with a similar algae bloom in Santa Cruz in 2007 that if we capture, treat and wash the birds quickly then they will likely have a good chance of being released.

So, we drove and airlifted birds to our San Francisco Bay center for treatment, with help from the US Coast Guard, the Humane Society of the U.S., the Hedinger Foundation and PETCO. Although the response taxed our staff, volunteers and budget, about 60% of the birds that we took in were released back to the wild.

There was one other major factor that separated this from an oil spill – there was no pre-established funding source to help these animals. Instead, it was the tremendous contributions and support from the public, from foundations and from businesses that was the difference between life and death for these birds. Without it, most of these birds would have been lost.

Soon we will post a list of all the species that were involved and other information on this event. In the meantime please check out our blog and read the most recent articles about why researchers think this event happened, what the future holds and more at www.ibrrc.org/algae-slime-response-2009.html. In the meantime, we will be looking into establishing an emergency funding source for events such as this and we will keep you informed of that venture.

This response was a good reminder of how our ongoing aquatic bird rescue and rehabilitation activities provide our team with the experience and expertise to make a difference when emergencies like oil spills and algae blooms occur. Our heartfelt appreciation goes out to all our supporters who make this possible.

– By Jay Holcomb,
Executive Director, IBRRC