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Pelican in wash at Gulf Oil Spill

An oiled Brown Pelican is washed of at the BP Gulf Oil Spill in 2010. A high percentage of rescued pelicans treated in this spill were returned to the wild. (Photo: IBRRC)

Starting in late April, a team of bird rescue specialists from International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) worked along the Gulf Coast to help with an all-hands-on-deck effort to rescue seabirds caught in the BP Deepwater Horizon well blow out.

IBRRC teamed with Tri-State Bird Rescue, the lead oiled wildlife organization on the ground, to staff rehabilitation centers in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. Report Gulf oiled birds: (866) 557-1401

The oil spill involved a ruptured drilling platform approximately 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The drilling rig, the Deepwater Horizon, exploded on April 20, 2010 and sank in 5,000 feet of water. More than 100 workers scrambled off the burning rig in lifeboats. 11 workers died. It's estimated that more than 200 million gallons of oil leaked into gulf waters. The leak stained beaches, marshland and inlets from Louisiana to Florida. The leaking rig was finally capped July 15 – about 11 weeks after the blow out. See: Gulf Oil Spill Quick Facts

Heavily oiled Brown Pelicans

Heavily oiled await treatment and washing in Louisiana. (Photo: IBRRC)

As of early November 2010, at least 1,246 healthy cleaned birds were returned to the wild. Most of the birds captured alive and collected dead were from Louisiana. The species included Brown Pelicans, Northern Gannets, Laughing Gulls and Roseate Spoonbills Complete species list

See: Official Bird Care in Numbers

At its busiest moment, IBRRC had approximately 88 trained wildlife responders working on this spill. By the end of September, with bird rescue numbers declining, most of IBRRC's response team was demobilized.

Executive Director Jay Holcomb says IBRRC is still on standby. "As we demobilize from the Gulf Oil Spill, we do have plans to reactivate should more birds become impacted," says Holcomb. "IBRRC would never leave oiled or sick birds in need unattended."

The Spill in Numbers


Total cleaned birds released back to wild.


Total birds captued and collected.


Gulf states where oiled birds were found.

86 Days

How much time it took to cap the well.

206+ million gallons

Amount of oil leaked from blown BP well.

BP is paying for the clean-up and wildlife rescue efforts in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

IBRRC welcomes support for our ongoing programs. In the case of a major oil spill, there is a responsible party who will cover the costs associated with the spill. Events like natural oil seeps off the California coast or algal blooms also impact birds, but have no responsible party. Your support is essential to ensuring that IBRRC staff and clinics are available 365 days a year to care for birds impacted by these natural events, and be prepared to effectively respond to oiled wildlife emergencies. Read more about how to help

News from Oiled Wildlife Rescue Team. Contact info, daily briefings and rescue center directions. Oiled Bird Numbers provided by Unified Area Command

IBRRC isn't a stranger to Louisiana oil spills. In 2005 we assisted local groups following Tropical Storm Arlene. Read: Louisiana 2005 spill response

IBRRC's important answers to common questions regarding the treatment of oiled birds and other wildlife. With video and photos. See it here

Also see: With proactive capture, oiled birds CAN be rehabilitated

IBRRC is a non-profit 501-c-3 organization. Your contribution is tax deductible to the full extent of IRS law.

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