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November 1, 2003

Saving stranded birds

Northern Fulmars found beached along California coastline

Hundreds of dead and dying fulmars, ocean-going seabirds seldom seen from shore, have been found beached on California’s shoreline from Northern to Southern California. Survivors are being rushed to intensive care at International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). Necropsies done on five of the dead birds revealed they were juveniles that had starved to death.

northern fulmar beached

Beached Fulmar along Monterey, CA beach. More photos. (Photo: Karen Benzel)

Northern Fulmars are pelagic seabirds, similar in size to seagulls that belong to the order Procellariiformes, which includes albatross. They breed in colonies, on remote islands as far north as the Canadian Arctic and migrate to the Pacific Ocean as far south as Baja California to feed on fish, squid, and shrimp. Researcher s are not concerned that the species is in trouble as fulmars are one of the world’s most numerous seabirds. Die-offs of young birds are not uncommon during years of high production.

Lifeguards began finding the birds on Southern California beaches October 15 and on October 31 over 300 were found dead and dying on Monterey Bay beaches. Wildlife rescuers combed Monterey beaches trying to find as many live birds as possible, and rushed them to IBRRC’s center in Cordelia where they went into intensive care. Some of the birds were too emaciated to be saved, but the fulmars with good blood work, have been recovering in the center’s large pools where they are fed all the fish they can eat. “We want to fatten them up and get them back out to sea as soon as possible,” said Michelle Bellizzi, Rehabilitation Manager.

Lana Emo, rehabilitation manager at IBRRC’s center in San Pedro said the fulmars they have been caring for are almost ready for release. “We’re still getting them in, but not in large numbers.”She observed, “We’re finding fulmars are not particularly aggressive towards people, but they are very aggressive towards each other, and we started to run out of pools.”

The center is asking for the public’s help. Anyone finding fulmars in distress should not leave them on beaches or try and put them back in the water. Throw a towel or jacket over the bird, put it in a box or container with air holes and take it to the nearest animal shelter or wildlife rehabilitation center.

IBRRC manages two wildlife rehabilitation centers in California as part of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and has specialized in the rehabilitation of waterfowl and aquatic birds since 1971. The number for IBRRC in Northern California is 707-207-0380 ext. 110. In southern California the number is 310-514-2573 or 74. More information and directions to the centers can be found on their website at www.ibrrc.org. Donations to help pay for the cost of caring for the birds may be sent to Fulmar Fund, IBRRC, 4369 Cordelia Road, Cordelia, CA 94534.

Media contact:

Karen Benzel
Office: (831) 622-7588

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Related info graphic

Abstract on Fulmars

IBRRC paper on these plentiful open ocean birds

Photos of rescue

Stranded birds on Monterey, CA beaches

Birds in focus

More information on Northern Fulmars


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