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Seaside Seabird Sanctuary stretched thin with birds sickened by red tide

The public is encouraged to give the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary a call if they come across a sick bird.

INDIAN SHORES, Fla. — Fish aren't the only casualty of the recent red tide outbreak along the Pinellas County coastline. 

Seabirds, as well, have been falling ill in greater numbers, according to the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, a local rescue group. They can get exposed to the red tide toxin, brevetoxin, while consuming food sources that have been contaminated.

Christina Chilbert told 10 Tampa Bay the organization's resources are "running out fairly quickly due to all the birds coming in with red tide toxicity on top of baby bird season."

High concentrations of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, have been reported in recent days near Redington Beach and Bay Pines, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Elsewhere, medium concentrations exist near Clearwater Beach and Honeymoon Island.

Birds experiencing symptoms of brevetoxicosis can lose the ability to fly and might not be able to swallow or blink, the sanctuary said. For those not treated quickly, it could be fatal.

People are asked to report any signs of sick birds to Seaside Seabird Sanctuary by calling 727-391-6211 option 1. If it's safe to do so, carefully put a towel around the bird, place it in the box and bring it to the hospital located at 18328 Gulf Blvd., Indian Shores, Florida.

"With the unpredictable nature of these blooms, our hospital expects to continue to see an influx of sick birds throughout the summer," the sanctuary said in a statement. "Even when the blooms dissipate, many food sources remain contaminated with the brevetoxin and birds will continue to become affected for extended periods."

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