Massive rescue saves hundreds of seabirds

Massive rescue saves hundreds of seabirds »Play Video
Two common loons swim in a cleansing pool at the wildlife rescue center.
LYNNWOOD, Wash. - Waves of ocean algae have killed thousands of sea birds on the Washington and Oregon coasts. Now a wildlife center in Snohomish County is saving some of the feathered creatures.

The birds are recovering at PAWS Wildlife Center in Lynnwood - hundreds of miles from where they were found along the Pacific Coast.

An unusual algae bloom is causing the sea birds to lose the water-proofing on their feathers - which is affecting their ability to fly, float and stay warm.

"So they're beaching themselves onto the sand, and they actually can't go back in the water because they're not waterproofed," says Wildlife Director Jennifer Convey. "And then they sit there and starve to death bascially."

More than a hundred birds are undergoing rehab here this weekend, housed in covered pens.

The main mission: Get that slimy, toxic algae foam washed off by dipping them in and out of giant tubs. Some of the birds are so bad off they'll need to be hand-washed.

The cleaning and detox process is time-consuming. It will take about a week of bathing and drying, bathing and drying, before the birds are finally set free again.

Convey said the birds most likely will be released around parts of Puget Sound instead of the coast.

For PAWS, the relief effort is expensive. The water bill alone is expected to skyrocket.

"In this particular situation, we have to tap into the fire hydrants to have the appropriate water pressure for all the pools that we have running," says Convey.

The group says it needs donated sheets and towels to help keep the birds protected and warm during a time of the year when they're normally always out on the water.