These Loons Have Been Slimed - NBC Bay Area

These Loons Have Been Slimed



    These Loons Have Been Slimed
    Paul Kelway/IBRRC

    FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- The race is on to bring hundreds of red-throated loons and other sensitive migratory birds to a Fairfield rescue facility after the animals were hit by an unusual algal bloom off the cost of the Pacific Northwest.

    A Coast Guard HC-130 plane left from Air Station Sacramento on Monday to fly to Astoria, Ore., to pick up about 200 to 300 rescued birds and bring them back to the International Bird Rescue Research Center. About 150 birds were trucked down to the facility over the weekend.

    Paul Kelway, regional program manager likened the impact to that of an oil spill, adding that donations are needed for a recover effort that may cost about $50,000. He said when an oil spill occurs, a company or other responsible party can often be billed. But in this case, there is no way to recover the cost from a natural act.

    "Mother Nature doesn't have a credit card, unfortunately," Kelway said.

    Hundreds of seabirds began washing up on Oregon and Washington beaches Tuesday following a rapid increase in the amount of algae.

    Since then, the Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Astoria has been inundated with birds covered in a slimy foam caused by a single-cell algae that multiplies in warmer weather.

    "The birds are not oiled but the impact of the surfactant-like proteins in the foam has the same affect on birds as oil, impacting the natural waterproofing of their feathers and causing hypothermia, which can be deadly to these animals," International Bird Rescue Executive Director Jay Holcomb said in a prepared statement.

    The Coast Guard plane flew to Oregon with three IBRRC seabird specialists and was expected to return to California by Monday afternoon.

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