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 â€“ so hereâ€™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, theyâ€™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 theyâ€™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 theyâ€™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.
Oil has begun washing ashore in Louisianaâ€™s Chandeleur and Breton Island chain, part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge is a nesting site for the brown pelican, which was removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List last year. Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement agents also discovered two dead gannets covered in oil on Wednesday. And today, the Fish and Wildlife Service closed the Refuge to the public.