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Sunday, February 17 , 2019, 2:50 pm | Light Rain 55º


Seabirds Fall Victim to Natural Oil Seeps Off Santa Barbara County’s Coal Oil Point

International Bird Rescue, which has helped nearly 140 oiled birds already this year, urges the public to be on the lookout for others in need

A seabird rescue group reports it has seen nearly 140 oiled birds come into its facility for rehabilitation after run-ins with natural oil seeps, including those off Santa Barbara County’s Coal Oil Point.

The nonprofit International Bird Rescue, based in Long Beach, says it has received the influx of oiled birds since the beginning of the year. The group is asking the public to be on the lookout for these birds and to call its center for help.

A majority of the birds brought in were murres, which float on top of the water and dive for food, but the group also reported that other birds types had been oiled. Common and Pacific loons, Western grebes, an eared grebe, a surf scoter and a rhinocerosauklet were among those brought in for care.

Birds’ wings have natural waterproofing properties that help insulate their body temperatures, but when they become covered in oil, that insulation stops and they can often die of hypothermia.

The increase in murres may be because their migration patterns are changing, moving toward the south. 

“We have never seen this many oil seep murres at once,” said Jay Holcomb, director emeritus of International Bird Rescue.

Holcomb said the birds arriving at the center after being oiled by a natural seep have a good chance of survival, and that in some years, the center receives more seep-oiled birds than birds damaged by a human-caused spill.

If you find a bird that has been oiled, the center recommends temporarily placing the bird in a medium to large box with a folded towel at the bottom. The box should have holes for plenty of airflow, and the bird should be kept in a quiet dark place. 

The center recommends keeping the bird warm, not feeding it and leaving it alone.

Call the rescue center at 877.UCD.OWCN to report oiled wildlife sightings.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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