Oil Spill Answers: Is There Any Way To Keep Birds Away From the Oil?

Carl Pellegrin (left, LA Department of Wildlife and Fisheries) and Tim Kimmel (USFWS) net an oiled pelican in Barataria Bay, La., on June 5. The bird was taken to Grand Isle, La., for stabilization before going to Fort Jackson Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Venice, La., for cleaning. Photo by John Miller/USCG

Many readers have written to us with questions about the oil spill and wildlife. In the coming weeks, we'll ask experts to answer many of those queries.

To kick things off, I asked Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society, to respond to questions about trying to keep birds away from the oil. As one reader wrote, "Is there anything we can do to try at least to get them out of there before the oil hits, or before it devastates a whole flock? They do it at airports." Here's what Butcher had to say:

The oil is very widespread. The birds are committed to using their traditional areas. While they are healthy, they are extremely difficult to catch. If they were caught and moved, the adults would fly right back. If they were harassed during the breeding season to try to get them to move, they would come right back because they are attached to their eggs and young. Because the oil is so widespread, the birds would have to move much farther than they would from an airport.

Prevention is key with oil. Once it is spilled there is little we can do. Once the leak has stopped and the clean-up has progressed, we can think about restoring the lost bird populations.

To find out how you can help with the Gulf oil spill disaster, visit Audubon's How You Can Help page.

To read more about Audubon's oil spill recovery efforts, read a Q&A with Melanie Driscoll, Audubon's bird conservation expert on the ground in Louisiana.

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