Workers at the International Bird Rescue Center in San Pedro are putting in long hours this month treating dozens of oiled seabirds that have turned up on the shoreline from Malibu to Newport Beach.
"We see it every year but what's concerning is we've got a lot of birds" recently, said Jay Holcomb, executive director of the center. "Seventy-seven have come in this month."
The birds are being found beached and coated with crude oil and tar from a natural seep off the Santa Barbara coast, according to Karen Benzel, a spokesperson for the organization.
Most are Common Murres, birds that nest on high cliffs and spend most of their lives on the open water. Others affected include Western Grebes and Loons.
Because the birds are affected by natural seepage rather than a human-caused oil spill, the cost to rehabilitate them falls mainly on the bird center and other area wildlife groups.
"Our staff and volunteers are in the midst of an oil spill with many birds needing daily care at our center," Holcomb said. "Little attention is paid to these natural events because there is no responsible party, such as an oil company, to pay the costs. The responsible party in this case is Mother Nature, and she does not come with a credit card."
Natural oil seepage occurs in several areas along the Southern California coast, with Coal Oil Point in the Santa Barbara Channel being the world's largest natural seep, emitting thousands of gallons of oil every day.
Donations to the nonprofit center can be made through its website at www.birdrescue.org/.
Those who find an oiled bird in distress should call 866-WILD-911 for help. To report oiled wildlife sightings, call 877-UCD-OWCN.
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