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Gulf oil spill could impact non-coastal songbirds

Even though they don’t stop over in the Gulf of Mexico, many migrating songbirds could be impacted by the catastrophic oil spill in the area, warns the American Bird Conservancy (ABC). The threats to marine and coastal birds have been well-outlined during the past few days, however birds flying high above the spill could also be vulnerable.

In efforts to stem the spill, officials have lit parts of the oil on fire. Running into smoke from this fire could make long and strenuous migrations more difficult for US songbirds.

“Millions of our songbirds are crossing the Gulf now, and will arrive Stateside perilously weak and undernourished from their journey. The smoke may well compound their precarious situation and potentially lead to birds failing to make it to shore, or arriving so weakened that they are unable to survive,” said ABC President George Fenwick in a recent press release.

ABC also warns of ten important bird areas on the coast that are particularly vulnerable to the growing spill, including the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Gulf Coast Least Tern Colony, Lower Pascagoula River, Dauphin Island, Breton National Wildlife Refuge, Fort Morgan Historical Park, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Baptiste Collette Bird Islands, and Eglin Air Force Base.

“There are costs to wildlife and their habitats for every form of energy generation, whether it is coal, oil, wind, nuclear, or any other form. Those costs must be re-assessed, not by economists, industry, or energy experts, but by biologists, ecologists, and environmental experts. The stakes are simply too great to leave to chance,” Fenwick says, adding that “we must stop playing Russian roulette with the future of our environment.”

The disaster started when a BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Killing eleven workers, the explosion also left oil leaking from a drill hole estimated at 200,000 gallons per day. Officials are now saying it could be months before the leak is stopped, resulting in what could be the worst environmental disaster in US history.

Of 500 Globally Important Bird Areas in the US, nearly 30 percent (149 in total) lie on coastlines which could be vulnerable to this or future oil spills from off-shore drilling.

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