The Beacon

Blog Tags: Birds

Creature Feature: Magnificent Frigatebird

Yes, that’s a bird, and yes, it’s supposed to look like that. (Photo: Mark Vance)

Magnificent frigatebirds aren’t the beauty queens of the bird world, but they do get points for bold style. These seabirds have a seven foot wingspan and an inflatable, bright-red throat sac under their bills that they used in elaborate courtship displays. Only the males have these sacs—female frigatebirds have a non-inflatable white neck, making them the only seabird species where the males and females look very different.


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Six Months Later, the Gulf is Still Healing

Remember this? NASA image from April 29, 2010.

Today marks the six month anniversary of the start of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Around 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. More than 6,000 birds, more than 600 sea turtles, and almost 100 marine mammals have died, and news surfaced this week that the spill likely killed 20 percent of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna in the vicinity of the spill. And the long-term effects remain to be seen.

It was the nation’s largest environmental disaster in history, and yet, there’s a pervading sense that the disaster is behind us, that the majority of the country has taken a deep breath and moved on. Congress hasn’t passed climate legislation, and the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling several weeks earlier than planned.

What’s wrong with this picture?

We’re frustrated. If you are too, here are some ways to channel that frustration into action:

1. Tell your Senators to support the development of offshore wind power. We have a new report out that shows how offshore wind would be cost-effective, more beneficial to job creation, and better for the environment and ocean in a variety of ways than offshore drilling.


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Pelicans, the Spill and DDT

heron

© Dr. Kathryn Flynn, Auburn University

Auburn University is doing some great work on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and their kind folks sent us this photo of a heron walking along an oil boom with a skimming vessel in the background.

In other bird news, Dr. Geoff Hill, nationally-known professor of ornithology at Auburn, recently described the impact of the gulf spill on bird populations, in particular, the brown pelican. Hill drew some interesting comparisons between the impact of the oil and the impact of the pesticide, DDT in the 1970s.

You can read more about Dr. Hill's observations and check out a podcast of his interview by visiting Auburn University's Oil Spill Blog.

Stay tuned for more from Auburn!

 


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On The Cleaning Process For Oiled Birds

Brown pelicans awaiting release at the rescue center. Oceana/Suzannah Evans

Cleaned brown pelicans awaiting release at the rescue center. Oceana/Suzannah Evans

After writing about our visit to the bird rehab center in Louisiana last week, I promised to write a second post going into more detail about the cleaning process for oiled birds the next day. Well, I ended up on a boat for a couple of days, and the week got away from me – so here’s my long-promised update!

Jay Holcomb's International Bird Rescue Research Center is managing the cleaning process for most of the birds taken off the water after the oil spill. So far, they’ve had nearly 600 birds go through the process, mostly pelicans. The space the rescue center inhabits is a large warehouse in the bayou, but they’re already running out of room: While we were there, a worker was building new outdoor cages.

There are no interior walls in the warehouse, which has an assembly-line precision: The birds arrive in pet carriers and are quickly evaluated by a vet in scrubs and rubber boots in one corner known as the medical station, and then they’re placed in plywood-sided compartments with other birds. The birds we saw were all pretty well covered in oil, and in varying states of distress.


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A Visit With Jay Holcomb And Some Oily Birds

brown pelicans yearning to be free

Brown pelicans awaiting release after being cleaned. Photo courtesy Suzannah's iphone.

In a cavernous warehouse in Louisiana’s bayou country, hundreds of oiled birds are getting a chance at survival after the BP oil disaster threatened their lives. Most of them are brown pelicans, Louisana’s state bird, along with some gulls, herons, gannets and terns. Until a couple of weeks ago, there weren’t many birds in this makeshift facility backed up against the Mississippi. But with the oil slick’s expansion closer to shore, the number of birds affected exploded – and the rescue center is racing to keep up.

The center is run by Jay Holcomb, and is primarily staffed by his International Bird Rescue Research Center team. Today, I visited Jay along with Oceana’s pollution campaign director Jackie Savitz, and got a firsthand look at the critical work that Jay and his team are doing.

We were also on hand to congratulate Jay on winning Oceana’s 2010 Ocean Heroes Award. He was unable to attend the award ceremony in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago because he was too busy doing the work of an ocean hero – saving birds in the Gulf.

Here’s a video of Jackie talking to Jay about his work and what happens to the birds after they're released. You can hear the helicopters going out to the spill site overhead.


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Spill Takes Increasing Toll on Wildlife

oil pelican

© AP/Gerald Herbert

As BP prepares its “top kill” maneuver to stanch the Deepwater Horizon’s leak, oil continues to hit Louisiana’s wetlands and beaches, fouling sensitive habitats and marine life.

Officials reported yesterday that more than 300 sea birds, nearly 200 sea turtles and 19 dolphins have been found dead along the U.S. Gulf Coast since the spill started more than a month ago.

As a result, the images coming out of the gulf are increasingly heartbreaking, like these photos of the spill and its victims from Boston.com.

Oceana pollution campaign director Jackie Savitz was on the Diane Rehm show this morning for a second time since the spill discussing the long-term environmental consequences of the oil spill. Jackie was joined by Douglas Rader from the Environmental Defense Fund, Carys Louise Mitchelmore of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and William Hogarth from the University of South Florida. Have a listen here.

If you haven’t already, help us reach our goal of 500,000 petition signatures: tell Obama and Congress to stop offshore drilling today, and spread the word.


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