By Kat Kerlin
Rehabilitated pelicans once covered in oil from last month’s Refugio oil spill in Santa Barbara County were released today (June 12) at Goleta Beach.
Wildlife responders from the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network and California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) placed satellite tracking devices on 12 brown pelicans affected by the spill.
Study to track rehabilitated birds’ survival
The devices will help researchers learn more about the survival rates of birds affected by oil spills and to see if they return to normal behaviors. Eight additional pelicans will be outfitted with the devices to serve as controls.
The solar-powered tracking devices each weigh 65 grams, about the weight of a “C” size battery, and are worn by the birds like a small backpack—with one loop in front of the wing, another behind the wing and two loops connected by Teflon ribbon under the bird’s body. The device allows pelicans to dive for fish with minimal disruption.
Researchers tracked oiled birds following the American Trader oil spill off Huntington Beach in 1990, but this study will use more advanced technology and newer rehabilitation methods. OWCN and OSPR are working with collaborators who have successfully tagged and tracked close to 100 brown pelicans after the Deepwater Horizon spill.
The oiled pelicans released today were recovered and cleaned after the spill in May and have been rehabilitating at the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in the weeks since.
Other collaborators in the project include the U.S. Geological Survey, Clemson University, Humboldt State University’s Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and International Bird Rescue.
The study is being funded by the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which is based at the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center and the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and by OSPR.
For updates on animals and birds rescued from the oil spill, follow the OWCN blog.
UC Davis Today: Wildlife experience the high price of oil (with video)