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Daily Newscasts

Bird Rescue Underway – Oil Damaged Birds Likely Beyond Gulf Coast

May 13, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. - The race is on to protect birds threatened by the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; birds that would also be finding their way to other locations, including North Carolina. Last month's oil rig explosion couldn't have come at a worse time for the thousands of brown pelicans, egrets and other birds nesting in islands and wetlands off the coast, according to experts from the International Bird Rescue Research Center. A team is now on location to care for birds caught in the oil slick.

Jay Holcomb, the group's director, says it's impossible to predict how the birds will be affected, since the winds and tides will determine the movement of the oil slick, and damaged birds are expected to show up beyond the Gulf in the weeks ahead.

"It's heartbreaking and stressful and it makes everybody really sad. The whole issue of the drilling and the leaking oil that no one seems to know how to stop points to the vulnerability of our environment and our responsibility in taking care of it."

One of the most-vulnerable species is the brown pelican, which Holcomb says is found in North Carolina after nesting season. It's a species that would have become extinct if conservationists hadn't taken steps 20 years ago to preserve the colonies, he adds.

"If there was a hurricane or a strong storm that blew the oil around it could blow it onto the island and cover the babies and the adults that are feeding. So, the biggest vulnerability is those birds right there."

The first two birds that were treated have already been released to a Florida wildlife refuge. The birds were hand-fed, cleaned and given Pepto-Bismol to help with rehydration. Holcomb, who has responded to over 200 spills, including the Exxon Valdez, says rescuers could be in the region for months.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - NC