Flying straight for disaster

Canadian birds are about to fly south for the winter, thousands won’t be returning

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Canadian birds are about to fly south for the winter, but thanks to the oil slick contaminating their temporary home along the Gulf of Mexico, thousands won’t be returning.

Although oil has stopped leaking from BP’s underwater Gulf pipeline, more than 1,000 km of coast and almost 20,000 acres of inland marsh have been contaminated with toxic hydrocarbons, and those numbers are expected to increase as hurricane season churns up submerged crude and spreads the greasy sheen covering wetlands. It’s a mess that’s already decimated local wildlife populations, and is now lying in wait for tens of millions of unwitting Canadian ducks, geese and other birds—including endangered white pelicans and piping plovers.

Pat Kehoe, a Ducks Unlimited biologist, says most duck and geese species won’t see a significant drop in numbers, but that the oil’s impact could be devastating to endangered birds like the tiny sand-coloured piping plover, which only numbers about 6,000 in North America. “The oil gets in their feathers and they can be submerged and drown,” he says. “It’s a major environmental disaster. The ground gained from the conservation efforts over the last 20, 30, 40 years could be lost.”

The situation seems to be getting worse as storm season approaches and the oil breaks down, leaving a lighter slick on the water’s surface that is still harmful to birds, but very difficult to detect. An intensive cleanup is ongoing, but Kehoe says there’s only so much that can be done after a spill, and that the meaningful work will be in stopping such a disaster from happening again.




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Flying straight for disaster

  1. For some migratory birds the oil slicks are not the worst danger,- excessive hunting is. And since hunting is regulated,it is not the hunter that is to blame, it is the Ministry of Natural Resources. They seem to permit "harvesting" of more than 80% of the duck population each year.We have lived on the shore of a very fertile lake in Ontario for decades and seen the Mallard duck population decline to bare survival levels.Presently ,in the fall about 20 ducks leave from our area, but only two or three return the next spring.
    In hunting season we can't use the patio on the lake side.A hundred little impact craters in the wood siding tell the story of some scoff-law hunters who are willing to endanger human life to get their quota.
    The rest of the migratory birds in our neighbourhood are keeping on a steady level on the whole,but cormorants are increasing and Canada geese are simply mushrooming in population.
    Too bad that the MNR is not doing a better job.

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