With the Gulf of Mexico oil spill taking its toll on wildlife, nearly 25 brown pelicans – Louisiana’s state bird, which was removed from the endangered species list last year amid efforts to restore its population – were brought to the Fort Jackson Bird Rehabilitation Center in Venice, Louisiana, on Saturday, for washing oil off their feathers.
With the arrival of 66 birds at the rehabilitation center in the last two days, a total number of 157 birds have thus far been brought to the rehab center, where the workers hired by BP wash and clean the oil-soaked features of these birds. Upon being washed and dried, the birds are given a health check; banded for identification purposes; and flown to Florida by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The birds have been brought to the center because huge oil slicks have found to be getting closer to vital nesting and breeding grounds, comprising Louisiana’s fragile barrier islands and marshes.
The cleaning of the oil from the birds’ feathers is essential chiefly because the feathers of oiled birds get separated after becoming matted; thereby exposing the birds to heat or cold.
Moreover, since the birds themselves use their beaks or bills to preen or clean their feathers, they stand a risk of increased chances of sickness or even fatal ingestion of oil.