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Seaside Seabird Sanctuary rescuing birds sick from red tide

The birds become sick after eating dead fish
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Posted at 10:44 PM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 00:11:53-04

INDIAN SHORES, Fla. — The Seaside Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores is caring for birds that became sick from the red tide.

They said seabirds are exposed to brevetoxin by eating contaminated food sources like dead or dying fish.

"They end up eating the fish and what happens is the toxin gets in their bodies and ends up in their muscle systems and that’s what gives them that instability and sometimes it actually paralyzes them to the point that they can’t move at all," said Christina Chilbert with Seaside Seabird Sanctuary.

In June, the sanctuary took in more than 300 birds, including ones impacted by red tide. They receive about 40 to 60 calls daily.

"With brevetoxin, what happens in their body is they'll kind of act unstable. You'll notice them; they'll be a little bit wobbly. They'll just exhibit behaviors you wouldn't normally see a bird doing, like laying down in an area for an extended period of time," said Chilbert.

Volunteers at the sanctuary's wildlife hospital are caring for a Great Blue Heron that became ill from the red tide.

Birds that survive the first 24 hours in the hospital often make full recoveries, but it depends on how long the birds have suffered from the toxicity.

"Flushing them with as many fluids as possible to kind of get that toxin out of their bodies is super important, Also, being able to provide them with fresh clean fish that we know are clean fish for them to eat," said Chilbert.

Chilbert expects to see an influx of sick birds throughout the summer.

"We have 85 pelicans and 30 cormorants that are ready to be re-released. We have to take care of them every day, but because of the red ride, we’re hesitant to release them back into the wild because we don’t want them to come back to us so that’s incurring a huge cost to us," said Chilbert.

The sanctuary asks people to report any birds showing signs of toxicity. For example, birds that are unable to stand, walk, or fly. People may call 727-391-6211 and choose option 1.

The sanctuary is always looking for donations and volunteers. Volunteers said they could use supplies like bleach, laundry detergent, apples, grapes and other essential items. Monetary donations are also appreciated.

For more information on how to make a donation visit: https://seasideseabirdsanctuary.org/donate.