Mourning the passing of Jay Holcomb

UPDATE 10.30.14

A Tribute to International Bird Rescue's Jay Holcomb from International Bird Rescue on Vimeo.

I wanted to share this video from the International Bird Rescue that was played at the memorial service for Jay Holcomb, late director of International Bird Rescue, who passed away in June at age 63.

Family, friends, colleagues and oil spill responders from all over the world gathered to celebrate Jay's life in San Francisco on Saturday, July 26.

There weren't many dry eyes in the room after watching this beautiful film.


This film was created by P&G and PKT in New York, produced and edited by Hadleigh Arnst, PKT

Read this personal tribute to Jay Holcomb’s important oil spill response work, by International Bird Rescue’s Andrew Harmon published October 27, 2014 on


Jay Holcomb, renowned bird rescuer and IFAW partner, releasing birds. He will be missed by all IFAW staff.


With great sadness, the International fund for Animal Welfare ( IFAW) mourns the passing of our good friend and colleague, Jay Holcomb.

As the Executive Director of International Bird Rescue (formerly IBRRC) and a long time IFAW partner, Jay led oil spill responses for IFAW around the world for many years, most notable the Treasure oil spill in South Africa in 2000, which is still the largest rehabilitation effort for oiled birds ever.

His dedication to reducing the suffering of oiled birds was undeniably the driving force behind Jay’s long and distinguished career with  International Bird Rescue as a both a mentor and a rescuer. As a colleague, Jay brought wisdom, vision and humor to the business of caring for oiled wildlife. His energetic support for strengthening international oil spill prevention and response was constant throughout the years.

IFAW friend and colleague, Ian Robinson remembers:

“Perhaps my most enduring memory of Jay is the first time I saw him in action at a spill. It was in the Galapagos Islands. Volunteers from different NGOs from around the world were arriving to help, and there was complete chaos. 

We were on a boat traveling to the site of the spill; Jay sat cross-legged in a corner, and calmly drew order out of the chaos. 

His great skill, and contribution to oil spill response, was his grasp of scale and how everything had to work together in order to bring success to the fragile process of rehabilitating an oiled bird. But for all his ability to manage the scene of the disaster – even on a huge scale like the Treasure oil spill in South Africa, he never lost his compassion for each and every affected bird.

In Estonia, I remember that when we unexpectedly lost some birds during the final stages of rehabilitation due to a waterproofing problem, he slept for several nights by the pool, to be there and able to intervene the moment a bird started to suffer.”

IFAW’s Cindy Milburn has this to say about Jay:

“Jay was truly a global leader in the field of animal rescue and rehabilitation and, on a personal and professional level; his loss will be felt deeply by his many friends and colleagues around the world.

His passion for animals and his knowledge and expertise about their needs, gained over decades of work in this area, set him out as an exceptional person in this field of work. In the year 2000 he lead the rescue of nearly twenty thousand African Penguins after the Treasure Oil Spill, the largest wildlife rehabilitation effort ever mounted, and faced some of the most extraordinary human and animal challenges with implacable calm, good sense and courage and he inspired others to do the same.

When out of the spotlight and able to relax, Jay regaled his friends with wonderful stories of animals he had known and loved – from pigs to penguins and just about everything in between.

Thank you Jay for all you have done for animals and done for all the people who have had the privilege of working with you.”

Gail A’Brunzo, speaking on behalf of her IFAW Animal Rescue colleagues;

“We will remember him as engaging, witty and compassionate. When we think of Jay, we hear his laugh ringing in our ears. As we cherish the memories we have of Jay, his spirit now flies with the birds he’s saved along with way”


Dr. Valeria Ruoppolo perhaps summarizes best what we all felt about Jay:

“Jay was more than a colleague and a friend to us all and I am so happy I had the opportunity to have him brighten my life.”


We have been fortunate to call Jay a friend, mentor, and colleague. We miss him and extend our deepest sympathies to all Jay’s colleagues at IBR, and around the world but most of all to his family and friends.


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