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Oil hits Louisiana's largest seabird nesting area

Jul 15, 2010 9:35:00 AM - thestate.com
Biologists say oil has smeared at least 300-400 pelicans and hundreds of terns in the largest seabird nesting area along the Louisiana coast - marking a sharp and sudden escalation in wildlife harmed by BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The finding underscores that official tallies of birds impacted by the spill could be significantly underestimating the scope of damage.

The government counts only oiled birds collected for rehabilitation or found dead, for use as evidence in the spill investigation. Oiled birds in the many nesting areas that dot the Gulf coast typically are left in place and not counted in official tallies.

Researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology said Wednesday that they had spotted the oiled pelicans on Raccoon Island over the past several days. The spit of land lines the Gulf outside the state's coastal marshes. An estimated 10,000 birds nest on the island in Terrebonne Parish.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Lisa Williams said state and federal observers had documented only 68 oiled pelicans on Raccoon Island.

USA, South Carolina: (Latest Stories)