SAN PEDRO ( — Dozens of oiled seabirds have been found beached and covered in oil along the Santa Barbara coast this month, animal rescue officials said Monday.

Since Feb. 1, as many as 77 seabirds have been nursed at International Bird Rescue in Los Angeles after falling victim to what experts believe to be natural crude oil seeping up in the Santa Barbara Channel.

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Volunteers the L.A. Oiled Bird Care and Education Center have scrubbed the seabirds clean of oil and nursed them for recovery after many were found struggling with hypothermia, starvation and poisoning on beaches from Malibu all the way down to Newport Beach.

The San Pedro-based group said mostly Common Murres along with Western Grebes and Loons – which nest on high cliffs and spend most of their lives on the open water – have been affected, according to Karen Benzel for the International Bird Rescue.

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Julie Skoglund told KNX 1070’s Ron Kilgore this time of year is especially tough on volunteers at the Center.

“The ocean species migrating here during the wintertime, that’s when we see such heavy numbers of oiled birds coming in,” said Skoglund. “Every year, it changes a little bit, but we definitely are seeing more and more oiled birds coming in on a regular basis.”

Natural oil seepage occurs in many places along the Southern California coast. Coal Oil Point in the Santa Barbara Channel, for example, is the world’s largest natural seep, emitting thousands of gallons of oil every day.

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Residents are asked to call (866) WILD-911 or (866) 945-3911 if they find a beached oiled bird anywhere in Southern California.