These Common Murre Chicks (Uria aalge) were just one of the treats I was able to witness at the International Bird Rescue Center in the San Francisco Bay Area last weekend. Michelle Bellizzi, the Wildlife Center Manager, gave me a thorough and very informative tour of the San Francisco Bay facility.
International Bird Rescue is a world leader in oiled wildlife emergency response, rehabilitation, research and education. Their team of more than 40 highly trained specialists has led rescue efforts in over 200 oil spills in 11 States, two U.S. territories, and 12 different countries.
In addition to responding to oil spills around the world, International Bird Rescue staff work to care for birds impacted by lesser known threats like natural oil seeps under the ocean, algal blooms, marine debris, and extreme weather.
During non-spill times, the facility is used for marine bird rehabilitation, like treating this Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) pictured above that appears to have broken a wing.
When an oiled wildlife emergency occurs, these folks are ready to meet the challenge! Their trained staff and volunteers use these criteria to wash and rinse oiled birds:
Appropriate medical treatments,
Excellent blood values,
And normal behavior.
You see many oiled birds die because well-meaning people, anxious to remove the oil from feathers, wash them immediately, resulting in extreme stress. It is actually more important to give oiled birds the much-needed nutrition, hydration and medical treatment they need to regain their strength before they are washed.
You can read all about their process for washing oiled birds here.
Why rehabilitate oiled birds and why contribute to International Bird Rescue? Because Every Bird Matters! This story captures the heart and soul of International Bird Rescue’s work.
An old man was walking along the beach and saw in the distance a young boy who appeared to be dancing and gyrating at the ocean’s edge. As the man got closer, he realized that the boy was not dancing at all. The tide had gone out, beaching thousands and thousands of starfish. The boy was throwing starfish one after the other back into the ocean so that they might survive. “Son, you can’t possibly throw all of those starfish back. How can what you are doing possibly matter,” the old man asked. As the boy threw yet another starfish back into the safety of the ocean, he replied, “it mattered to that one.”
There are so many reasons to support this organization and their amazing staff and team of volunteers that I don’t even know where to start. Let me just quote their own words as to why we should help them in their efforts to be good stewards of the Earth.
“We all use oil or oil-related products in some form or another, and, as species co-existing on this earth with other life forms, we are responsible for the messes that we make. We know that oiled birds can be rehabilitated and we maintain the belief that each individual animal life is valuable and that each animal is deserving of our care. In a world where life is not always respected and cherished we feel that preserving even the life of one bird sends an important message.”
If you can, please make a gift of whatever you can, adopt a bird, become a Pelican Partner, give through your workplace which may have a matching gift program (see list), or volunteer. You can also help by purchasing some of their cool gear!