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What are the Effects of Oil Spills on Birds

Sonu S Feb 24, 2020
There have been various instances where oil spills have resulted in the death of several birds. You might have heard or may have seen pictures of a multitude of birds washed up on the beaches, after an oil spill. Do you want to know exactly how an oil spill affects the birds? Here is the answer.
Oil spills are one of the worst man-made calamities. They are responsible for the loss of significant proportions of marine life. When an oil spill occurs, the seabirds in the premises of the oil are severely affected.
Oil spill can be termed as the most dominant factor influencing the mortality of these birds. There were various instances of oil spills in the past, which took a toll on thousands of seabirds and reduced their population to a great extent.

Oil Spill Impacts on Birds

When an oil spill occurs, why don't the birds stay away from that region? This might be a question that may arise in your mind. Well, you are right, considering the fact that the birds will not be affected, if they do not enter the premises of the oil spill.
Now, to answer your question, let's see why the birds are tempted to enter the oil spilled water. When oil is spilled, the oil floats on the water. The fish sense that something is floating on the water, they assume that this is food. As a result, they forage in the oil spilled area for food.
The birds spot the several schools of fish in the region where the oil is spilled, thus they dive into the water to feast on the fish, ignorant of the terrible fate that awaits them. The detrimental effects on the birds are stated as follows:

Weakening of Insulation and Waterproofing

When the birds dive into the oil spilled water, the oil tends to stick to their feathers. Thus, their feathers are matted, and the alignment of the feathers is also changed. The alignment of the feathers in birds is very important.
Proper alignment of feathers protects them in cold weather by giving them necessary insulation and it avoids water from seeping in, facilitating their buoyancy. When the alignment of their feathers is altered, their insulation is undermined making them highly susceptible to hypothermia. Their buoyancy is significantly affected due to the poor waterproofing.

Inhibits Organ Functioning

The birds preen with an intention of getting rid of the oil stuck on their body. While doing this, they unintentionally ingest the oil. This consumption of oil damages their internal organs, predominantly affecting the digestive system. Such a physiological condition will eventually lead to their death.

State of Starvation

Since the entire marine life in the premises of the oil spill is affected by the oil, there is shortage of food and if the prey of the seabirds has ingested oil, then consuming it will have repercussions.
In addition to this, the birds do not give priority to feeding themselves, since their entire focus is on preening and cleaning themselves. All these factors cumulate into the starvation of the birds.

Increased Vulnerability to Predators

The starvation leads to weakness, and their constant focus on the preening makes them less alert. This makes it easier for the predators to attack them. Flight is a great mechanism for the birds to evade assaults but, the oil on their feathers inhibits their flight, making them more prone to attacks.
The consequences of the oil spill are highly influenced by the type of oil spilled. However, any oil spill is detrimental to the well-being of the life associated with the oil spilled area. Apart from the birds, various marine mammals are also affected by such a synthetic disaster.
An oil spill is a dire consequence of inefficient mechanisms to carry oil. Man is solely responsible for damage caused to any living organism due to such spills. Adequate measures should be taken to avoid oil spills in the future. This will, in turn, protect the birds and the marine life from premature death.