San Francisco Bay Oiled Birds Adding Up

By Jessica Greene
|  Tuesday, Nov 3, 2009  |  Updated 2:30 PM PDT
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Animals in the News

Justin Sullivan

One of the birds from the Cosco Busan oil spill in 2007.

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More than a dozen birds have died and 36 others have been found covered with oil as a result of an oil spill in the San Francisco Bay on Friday.

Volunteers picked up globs of bunker oil on Alameda beach Monday, three days after the Panamanian-flagged tanker Dubai Star spilled between 400 and 800 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay.

While the cleanup crews in hazmat suits take care of the shoreline, experts at the San Francisco Oiled Wildlife Care & Education Center in Cordelia are washing oil off of the birds. Most of the birds affected are grebes, coots, diving ducks and ruddy ducks, the center says.

Oil can be deadly for the birds because it sticks to its feathers, quickly damaging the waterproofing and exposing the birds' sensitive skin to extreme temperatures. Their instinct is to preen in effort to remove the oil. The result is that the bird ends up ingesting the oil.

In comparison to the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay in 2007, which caused the deaths of more than 2,000 sea birds, 14 dead birds is not a lot. But to lovers of wildlife, one dead animal resulting from an environmental disaster is too many.

Contractors hired by the owners of the Dubai Star have finished skimming oil off the surface of the water California Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman Carol Singleton said, and an aerial assessment Monday showed no oil sheen on the Bay. About 36,000 feet of boom is still in place to help contain the spill.

Several beaches in the Alameda area remain closed and fishing and shellfish harvesting have been suspended along that shoreline until further notice.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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