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Minnesota Migrating Birds May Suffer Heavy Losses in Texas Oil Spill

Updated: 03/27/2014 10:32 PM
Created: 03/27/2014 10:29 PM WDIO.com

A recent Texas oil spill threatens not only wildlife and the fishing industry there but also migrating birds heading back home to Minnesota.

More than 160,000 gallons of oil is estimated to have spilled from a tanker. Thousands of birds could be at risk of never making it here.

Cleanup continues five days after a barge and ship collided near the Texas City Dike, spilling thousands of gallons of oil into Galveston Bay.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, as of last Sunday, three birds were taken for rehabilitation and three birds were found dead.

In St. Paul, 1,226 miles to the north, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials like Carroll Henderson say Minnesota has a large number of migrant birds that could be affected or even killed. The birds include "the American White Pelican, lots of redhead ducks from the prairie pothole region, some western grebes winter there and also lots of birds we refer to as blue bells," he said.

Henderson says the impact will be known when the birds leave the area to migrate northward. When it comes to loons, he says they luckily winter farther east.

"Minnesota's loons winter primarily offshore from Alabama and the Florida Panhandle and then down the West Coast of Florida," he said.

Henderson says common loons, the kinds we see here in Minnesota, have already suffered because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

"We're still tracking the impacts on loons and pelicans caused by that oil spill. And that work will continue for several more years looking at long term impacts," he said.

Henderson says ducks and white pelicans are at the end of their wintering season right now. He expects them to migrate 300 to 400 miles a day as they move home to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

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