how many birds die from oil spills

Any time theres an oil spill on the water, the media are filled with photos and videos of crude-soaked birds. The coverage is the cue for the self-appointed environmentalist defenders of wildlife to wring their hands and furrow their brows.

If it werent for those greedy oil companies and voracious Westerners who consume more energy than they should, they imply, these crimes against nature would never happen.

The alternative to evil fossil fuels, these folk say, are “clean” renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. The environmentalists want us to believe they are more gentle to nature. But are they?

In latest U.S. oil spill off the coast of California, 161 birds died, as of the most recent count.

Estimates for bird deaths by wind turbine run from 100,000 a year (the National Research Council) to 300,000 (American Bird Conservancy). Bloomberg News puts the toll at 573,000 birds in 2012. At the high end of the estimates, thats well more than 1,000 birds chopped to death each day.

Meanwhile, as many as 28,000 birds are killed each year — thats one every two minutes — by the Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave Desert, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service . Ivanpah focuses more than 300,000 mirrors on three 459-foot towers, generating heat of up to 800 degrees — enough to fry birds that happen to fly by.

To be fair, the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico did do substantial damage to fowl in the region. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that 2,303 “visibly oiled” dead birds were collected “within the Deepwater Horizon/BP incident impact area.”

But oil spills the size of the BP accident dont happen every year. Deaths caused by wind turbines and solar farms, however, dont stop. The Daily Caller reports that “in the time since the 2010 BP oil spill, some 2.9 million birds have been killed by wind turbines.”

The biggest cause of bird deaths, however, is not man — at least not in the United States. It is cats. One study claimed that cats responsible for killing about 2.4 billion — with a “B” — birds a year.

Thats a lot of birds losing their lives. But let a few loons or terns get soaked in oil, and the cameras begin to roll, as do the tears.

Meanwhile, who cries over the birds thatve been carved or scorched? Apparently their deaths are acceptable because they gave their lives for the cause of renewable energy.

Its the price a few birds have to pay so some humans can say they are green.

Thats a lot of birds losing their lives. However, if a few terns or loons get drenched in oil, the cameras start to roll and the tears start to flow.

A few birds must pay this price in order for some people to claim to be green.

They suggest that these crimes against nature would never have occurred if it weren’t for those avaricious oil companies and voracious Westerners who use more energy than is appropriate.

Who cares for the birds that have been burned or carved in the meantime? It seems that their deaths are justified because they sacrificed their lives to advance the cause of renewable energy.

In latest U.S. oil spill off the coast of California, 161 birds died, as of the most recent count.

The largest accidental offshore oil spill in history occurred in 2010 when the BP Deepwater Horizon well blew out, spewing more than 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and onto its shores. It destroyed fisheries, killed wildlife, and harmed coastal ecosystems, affecting everything from Florida beaches to Louisiana marshes. However, the full extent of the harm is still unknown due to a lack of data, particularly when it comes to bird mortality. What research does exist is confidential property of the U. S. government, and won’t be made public until the BP lawsuit has concluded, the next phase of which starts in 2015.

The most distressing aspect of this entire situation, says Driscoll, is that, four years later, BP is putting more energy into stonewalling than restoring the Gulf. The third phase of the lawsuit against BP for its violation of the Clean Water Act will not begin until 2015—five years after the disaster. This means that most compensatory funds to help restore the Gulf have not yet materialized. Meanwhile, BP attempts to discredit studies that show harm to Gulf resources and has started refusing to fund research to understand delayed and chronic effects on birds and other wildlife, says Driscoll. While birds and other wildlife in the Gulf struggle to recover, the government and conservation communities use early restoration money to repair damage and steward the birds, doing what they can to make sure the animals get the best chance at long-term survival. Further reading:Bird mortality from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. I. Exposure probability in the offshore Gulf of MexicoBird mortality from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. II. Carcass sampling and exposure probability in the coastal Gulf of Mexico

Even though the numbers are depressing on their own, examining specific bird species reveals influences on their numbers at the population level. The study claims that during those ninety-five days, 36% of the Laughing Gull population in the northern Gulf of Mexico perished. Twelve percent of Brown Pelicans and fifteen percent of Royal Terns were killed. Driscoll observed an entire colony of Royal Tern chicks on Queen Bess Island covered in oil; the chicks eventually perished from oil exposure.

Driscoll claims that she has worried that the number of birds lost could surpass a million, as the suffering she witnessed during the spill itself predicted this tragic loss of bird life. In the paper by Haney et al. Driscoll notes that the researchers went to considerable measures to clarify how they derived their conclusions from the data from this and other spills. The authors described sources for overcounting and undercounting. For instance, the researchers may have overestimated the number of birds that perished if oiled birds have a tendency to fly toward shore. However, there are much more common causes of undercounting: searchers only gathered complete corpses during the spill, and they didn’t look for breeding colonies until months after the original spill. Furthermore, when rescue personnel removed oil from the water’s surface, they either burned or skimmed away the carcasses, which were missed by the counts. Additionally, the researchers purposefully excluded entire classes of birds, including marsh-dwellers like gallinules, rails, bitterns, and some herons and egrets, and decided not to count live oiled birds. The spill damaged over 2,000 miles of marsh, which is a significant number of bird deaths that are not taken into consideration in the analysis.

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