Local News

Apr 9, 2014 7:14 PM

Oil Spill Unseen But Still Felt in America's Birdiest City

NORTH PADRE ISLAND - The sanderling may just scutter and scoot on our beaches but this little guy is a world-traveler.

A sanderling will fly thousands of miles a year, from the Coastal Bend to the Artic circle and back again.

Bbut the last month's oil spill in Galveston Bay may throw a wrench in all that.

Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Bird Conservation Director David Newstead explains:

"One of the most heavily affected species is the Sanderling," Newstead says. "That bird spends most of it's time in this area on the gulf beach ... so those birds were especially hard hit."

Newstead says these birds come down to the beaches to eat, to gather the fuel that they need to make the long trip north to their arctic breeding grounds.

Instead of gorging themselves on tiny clams they pick from the sand, they're cleaning the oil from their feathers.

So when it comes time to move northward, they'll not have the energy they need to make the trip.

The more they work to get clean, the worse it gets.

"As birds ran back and forth they were getting oil on their bellies and on their legs," Newstead says. "A once they start cleaning themselves and preening they're dragging it onto their faces, spreading it all around."

And it wasn't just a few birds. Thousands may have ingested the oil.

"On Mustang Island we were looking at well over half - close to three quarters - of the birds had some oil on them," Newstead says.


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