The International Bird Rescue is Celebrating 50 Years

2021 will mark 50 years of cleaning up oil spills and nursing oiled birds for the International Bird Rescue, and it is faced with yet another spill, this time off the coast of Southern California.

CALIFORNIA-2021 marks a significant milestone for the International Bird Rescue (IBR), it has been 50 years since a massive oil spill that led to the creation of IBR.

It all began on Jan. 19, 1971, when two Standard Oil tankers collided near San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The collision released 800,000 gallons of corrosive, sticky, crude staining the bay and surrounding beaches. The spill’s aftermath created an unparalleled animal emergency, which led to the necessary establishment of the IBR.


On Oct. 3, off the Southern California coast, an estimated 127,000 gallons has been released into the Pacific Ocean and has begun to migrate to surrounding beaches, including Dana Point, Laguna, Newport, and Huntington Beach. The International Bird Rescue has been activated in this multi-agency spill response. Yet, precisely fifty years after the oil spill that started it all, the years of experience have taught IBR how to adapt to turbulent situations.



The IBR will celebrate its 50 years of accomplishments by bringing together the larger Bird Rescue family for groovy gatherings, limited-edition merchandise, and inspiring stories from 2021. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put a brief pause on the in-person celebration, but IBR Communications Lead Russ Curtis says that IBR plans to have an in-person celebration in Spring 2022. 


“The celebration in the Spring will be a celebration of our next 50 years,” said Curtis. 


The celebration is called “The 50th Anniversary Manifesto: Why the Laysan Albatross?” The Laysan Albatross is the featured bird for the 50th anniversary because, like IBR, the Laysan Albatross can live to be 50 years old and must adapt and overcome stressful situations throughout its life. To participate in the celebration of the IBR, follow their monthly engagement opportunities and special events. For more information, visit


“We are getting the birds in [to the IBR Los Angeles Facility] and getting fluids into them, and then stabilize them enough so they can be washed. Then we can get the birds into the wild, oftentimes in two weeks,” said Curtis.


The process begins when the birds arrive at the facility, and it starts with blood work. First, the birds have blood work done to determine how much damage the oil has done to them, and then from there are medically addressed and then washed with the acclaimed Dawn dish soap.


“Getting the oil off is so important because we need to get the birds waterproofed before we release them into the wild,” said Curtis. “Without that waterproof, they can’t thermoregulate, which means they can’t get their body temperature to a level where they can survive.” 


Temporary pools are set up at the facility to host the large influx of birds coming in currently. The facility can care for up to 1,000 birds, according to Curtis. 


The IBR has been working with its partners at Oiled Wildlife Care Network to help alleviate the impact on wildlife. There are staffers in the field working to care for the animals who have been affected by the spill. The IBR asks that if an oiled animal, please call the OWCN Response Hotline at 1-877-823-6926.


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