PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The red tide crisis isn’t just killing off millions of fish and marine life along Florida's Gulf Coast. It’s also taking the lives of threatened birds.

  • Birds in Helping Hands Wildlife Rescue patrol daily
  • Group has brought in more than 35 injured or dead birds since last week
  • See birds in distress? Call (727) 365-4592

The algae bloom is keeping many visitors off Pinellas County beaches, but Shelley Vickery with Birds in Helping Hands Wildlife Rescue has been patrolling those beaches daily looking for birds in distress.

"Today, we got in 5 birds right off the bat," Vickery said. "It's heartbreaking it really is especially when you can't save them. They're so toxic with the red tide."

Vickery said in the last week they’ve brought in more than 35 injured or dead birds. Among those brought in are threatened shore birds known as red knots.

"[Red knots] come from the Arctic tundra and they go all the way to the southern tip of South America," Vickery explained. "They're doing a 20,000 round trip migration. They're exhausted by the time they get to these beaches and they're hungry, and there hasn't been food for them."

Vickery said the birds are taken in and given fluids, along with a number of different types of medicine to coat their stomachs. She said sadly, only three have been able to recover.

"We're working with expert veterinarians. They're giving us help and advice," Vickery said. "We're trying a new strategy so we're going to see how that works. We're hopeful."

Vickery said she’s also hopeful they’ll be able to save more birds and that the red tide will soon be gone.

She said the birds that died were taken by FWC and will have necropsies performed.

If you see birds in distress on Pinellas County Beaches, you can contact “Birds in Helping Hands” at 727-365-4592.