Coast Guard

Viscous Goo Shows Up On Seabirds on Peninsula

An unidentified substance that has led to the deaths of at least 25 birds in the East Bay has also impacted birds across the Bay in Foster City, a wildlife emergency response official said Tuesday.

The viscous substance was confirmed Sunday on birds along the Peninsula, according to Rebecca Dmytryk, executive director of the non-profit Wildlife Emergency Services. But, the Peninsula Humane Society believes the birds were contaminated in the East Bay and took flight to San Mateo County, where they died.

Rescue crews were checking the Peninsula coastline between Foster City and Coyote Point to look for other distressed birds, Dmytryk said.

The mysterious substance was reported Friday at multiple sites in Alameda County, including the Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda, Hayward Regional Shoreline and at the San Leandro Marina, according to officials with International Bird Rescue, which has a rescue center in Fairfield.

The International Bird Rescue center in Fairfield has received 280 birds and 242 are alive and receiving medical care and stabilization, cleaning and reconditioning. Baking soda and vinegar is used to loosen the sticky substance before washing it off with dish soap.

Tests have shown that the substance, which is apparently not petroleum-based, breaks down the birds' feather structure, preventing them from regulating their body temperatures in the cold Bay waters, leading to hypothermia or death, according to the nonprofit.

While state officials say the substance isn't toxic, rescuers are wearing protective gear as they feed and treat the birds, just in case. Some say the goo seems similar to a fuel additive called polyisobutylene.

“There was a similar kind of substance that affected a whole lot of birds in Great Britain a couple of years ago,” said Rebecca Duerr, a veterinarian with International Bird Rescue. “We're suspecting it's a similar compound, but we don't know yet.”

Several of the dead birds have been taken to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's lab in Sacramento to determine the cause of death and to try to identify the substance.

Wildlife Emergency Services officials are asking for volunteers to help find any other distressed birds in the region. Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to fill out an application at

The public is advised to not try to capture distressed birds and to report any sightings to the organization at (831) 429-2323. 

NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez contributed to this report.

Copyright BAYCN - Bay City News
Contact Us