Bird Conservation Group Releases List of Critical Sites Most at Risk from Gulf Oil Spill Demands Re-Assessment of Ecological Impacts of U.S. Energy Policy

For Immediate Release

American Bird Conservancy
Contact: 

Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210, bjohns@abcbirds.org

Bird Conservation Group Releases List of Critical Sites Most at Risk from Gulf Oil Spill Demands Re-Assessment of Ecological Impacts of U.S. Energy Policy

WASHINGTON -

American Bird Conservancy
(ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, today
released a list of key bird sites they say are most immediately threatened by
the ongoing Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf. The sites have been
previously designated as Globally Important Bird Areas by the organization, and
are directly in the path of the advancing oil slick.

“This spill spells disaster for birds in this region and
beyond,” said ABC President George Fenwick. “It is ironic that next
weekend is International Migratory Bird Day. At a time when we should be
celebrating the beauty and wonder of migratory birds, we could be mourning the
worst environmental disaster in recent U.S. history.”

The Gulf Coast is extremely important for hundreds of species of
migrants, which variously breed, winter, and rest here during migration. The
population effects on birds from this spill will be felt as far north as Canada
and Alaska, and as far south as South America.

The complexity of the Gulf coastline, with numerous bays, estuaries,
inlets, marshes and creeks, will make cleanup extremely difficult; impacts
could last for decades for much of the habitat, and some species may suffer
significant long-term population declines.

“This spill tells us that we cannot take our coastline for
granted. A re-assessment of our approach to offshore drilling is required in
the light of this disaster that includes the development of no-go areas for
oil,” Fenwick said.

ABC has produced a map of the 500 Globally Important Bird Areas in the
United States, 149 of which are coastal or have a coastal component that could
be affected by this and future marine oil spills. A portion of these sites are
in immediate danger from the Deepwater Horizon spill.

A complete list of all ABC-designated Globally Important Bird Areas is
available at http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/domestic/sitebased/iba/ibalist.html

“There are costs to wildlife and their habitats for every form of
energy generation, whether it is coal, oil, wind, nuclear, or any other form.
Those costs must be re-assessed, not by economists, industry, or energy
experts, but by biologists, ecologists, and environmental experts. The stakes
are simply too great to leave to chance. We must stop playing Russian roulette
with the future of our environment,” said Fenwick.

All coastal nesting species
(herons, terns, skimmers, plovers, gulls, rails, ducks) are currently present
on the Gulf Coast, including several species on the U.S. WatchList of
birds of conservation concern. The impact to these species depends on how long
the leak lasts and what happens with weather and currents. The leak could
persist for weeks or months, and end up being the worst environmental disaster
in U.S. history.

For species with long lifespans and low
reproductive rates (e.g., Reddish Egrets, Least Terns), acute mortality
events such as this can have long-term population-level impacts if they affect
a large proportion of the breeding population. This is because the adults that
survive do not produce young quickly enough for populations to recovery
quickly. Species where large proportions of their populations concentrate in a
few, discreet locations (e.g., species with only a few breeding colonies and
species that concentrate en masse during migration stopover) are
particularly vulnerable to these events.

Compounding problems for songbirds, not
normally directly affected by oil spills, is the smoke billowing skywards from
the burning oil that was set alight to try to minimize damage to marine life.

“Millions of our songbirds are crossing the Gulf now, and will
arrive Stateside perilously weak and undernourished from their
journey. The smoke may well compound their precarious situation and
potentially lead to birds failing to make it to shore, or arriving so weakened
that they are unable to survive,” said Fenwick.

The Top Ten Sites at Most Immediate
Risk from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Gulf Coast Least Tern Colony

                One of the world’s largest colonies of the
threatened Least Tern

Lower Pascagoula River – including the Pascagoula River
Coastal Preserve

The coastal
marshes at the mouth of the river support Yellow and Black Rails, Snowy
Plovers, and endangered wintering Piping Plovers

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Hosts thousands
of wintering shorebirds, including endangered Piping Plover, Wilson’s
Plover, and American Oystercatcher, as well as Brown Pelican, Black-crowned
Night-Heron, White Ibis, and Black Skimmer.

Breton National Wildlife Refuge – including the Chandeleur
Islands

Largest tern
colony in North America, predominantly of Sandwich, Royal, and Caspian Terns.
Also American Oystercatcher, Brown Pelican, Reddish Egret, and endangered
Piping Plover. Also an important wintering area for Magnificent Frigatebird,
and stopover site for Redhead and Lesser Scaup.

Dauphin Island

An important
stopover site for migrant birds including shorebirds, gulls, terns, herons, and
rails.

Fort Morgan Historical Park

An important
stopover site for migrant birds including shorebirds, gulls, terns, herons, and
rails.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

An important
stopover site for thousands of trans-Gulf migrants.

Eglin Air Force Base

Best known for
its inland population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Elgin also has significant
coastal habitat for shorebirds and wading birds

Delta National Wildlife Refuge

Large numbers of
wading birds nest here, including White Ibis, Snowy Egrets, and herons;
thousands of shorebirds use the mudflats in winter and during migration,
including Dunlin, Long-billed Dowitcher, and Western Sandpiper, as well as
endangered Piping Plover.

Baptiste Collette Bird Islands

This artificial
barrier island, created from dredge spoil is one of the many Louisiana coastal
islands that could be affected. Birds found here include Caspian Tern, Brown
Pelican, Gull-billed Tern, and Black Skimmer.

 

 

Important-Bird-Areas-Gulf-Coast.jpg

 

 

The above map is available in higher resolution for at http://www.abcbirds.org/iba_gulf_map.html.
Bird photographs available on request.

American Bird Conservancy (www.abcbirds.org)
conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by
safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and
reducing threats while building capacity of the bird conservation movement. ABC
is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization that is consistently
awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group, Charity Navigator.

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