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Babies of the oil spill face an uncertain future

Jul 12, 2010 6:45:00 AM - thestate.com
The smallest victims are the biggest challenge for crews rescuing birds fouled with oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill.

There's no way to know how many chicks have been killed by the oil, or starved because their parents were rescued or died struggling in a slick.

"There are plenty of oiled babies out there," said Rebecca Dmytryk of the International Bird Rescue Research Center, one of the groups working to clean oiled animals.

The lucky ones end up in a cleaning center at Fort Jackson, a pre-Civil War historic site on the Mississippi River delta south of New Orleans.

Pelican chicks often come in cold because oil has matted down the fluffy down that's meant to keep them warm. They must be warmed quickly just to survive long enough to be cleaned. And the youngest must be taught to eat.