American Wildlife

Oiled Bird Numbers Zoom 

Gulf Tragedy: The Number Of Birds Covered In Oil Has Begun Climbing Steeply

It was bound to happen.

Even though the US Gulf Coast continues to experience and suffer from the largest oil spill in history, the number of birds and other wildlife visibly injured by the oil has remained surprisingly low—until now.

Oiled Bird Numbers Zoom 
Oiled Bird Numbers Zoom

According to figures published by the disaster response coordinators, over the past week oiled birds, both dead and alive, have begun turning up in much larger numbers. Between June 2 and June 9, the total number of oiled birds collected alive along the coasts of the five affected Gulf states—but predominately in and offshore of Louisiana—rose from 82 to 442. During the same period, the number of birds collected both alive and dead increased from 604 to 1075.

Although these numbers are still modest for a disaster of this size, the sharp trend is worrisome, especially since BP, the oil industry and the government have yet to find a way to stop the flow of oil.

Wildlife organizations can help some of the birds recover alive by cleaning their feathers, rehydrating them (giving them water and food), and eventually releasing them. However, many birds are made so ill by the oil that they either die or must be destroyed.

In addition to harming adult birds, the oil is also devastating to the young. Pelicans that are currently nesting have been returning to their nests with oiled feathers that then coat the eggs and young birds with oil. The oil can kill young birds and prevent eggs from hatching.

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