Oiled Bird Rescue and Rehabilitation Winding Down
Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent
With the well now permanently plugged, the search and rescue of oiled birds is winding down. Since the oil spill began, about 6000 birds were found dead from Louisiana to Florida. However, many of these birds likely died from natural causes as all dead birds found were collected, even if no oil was on the bird. A little less than half of the dead birds had visible oil on them. Laughing gulls, brown pelicans, and northern gannets were the most common species found with oil on them.
Brown pelican recovering from the oil spill. Photo Credits: Andrew Diller
As of September 23rd a total of 2076 oiled birds had been collected alive and sent to one of four rehabilitation sites along the Gulf coast. Of those, 1226 have been released, with approximately 150 still being treated. The majority of the birds collected were in Louisiana with 1542 live birds collected and 1101 released to date. In Florida, the totals are 254 oiled birds collected alive and 36 released.
Pelicans and gulls were the most common oiled birds. Photo Credits: Andrew Diller
Why did over 70% of the birds in Louisiana recover while less than 20% survived in Florida? Many birds in Louisiana encountered thick areas of oil and were incapable of flying almost immediately. Crews rescued many of these birds relatively quickly, while they were still in good health. Also, large nesting colonies that were inundated by oil in Louisiana were specifically targeted for rescue operations. Unfortunately, by the time birds in Florida were oiled enough to not be able to fly and be caught, they were in worse physical shape and less likely to recover.
Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research has begun the process of closing its rehabilitation sites along the Gulf coast. Pensacola was host to the Florida rehabilitation center. For a photographic tour of the Pensacola Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and to see how the birds were cleaned and treated, visit this link.