Oil Disaster

RINGO H.W. CHIU/AP IMAGES

THE SPILL SPREADS: A cleanup crew works to slow the spread of oil from a spill that occurred on October 2, 2021, near Southern California.

JIM MCMAHON/MAPMAN

This past October, about 964,000 liters (255,000 gallons) of crude oil leaked from a broken pipeline into the ocean off the coast of Southern California. Cleanup crews deployed floating barriers to try to contain the slick. Unfortunately, oil still drifted onto nearby beaches and into protected coastal wetlands. These waterlogged areas are home to dozens of shorebird species.

Oil is particularly dangerous for birds, says Dr. Michael Ziccardi, a veterinarian and director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, a program based in California. The sticky substance ruins their feathers’ natural waterproofing, allowing cold water to seep in and reach their skin. Ziccardi’s team rescued dozens of oil-soaked birds, including gulls, cormorants, and pelicans.

The spill occurred right after nesting season and just before the fall migration, when millions of birds arrive in the wetlands to rest on their journey south. This timing meant fewer birds were in the area at the time of the spill than there would have been at other times of the year.

Skills Sheets (2)
Skills Sheets (2)
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