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Even a tiny oil spill spells bad news for birds

Eating small amounts of the crude form left the animals lagging

By
7:00am, November 21, 2017
duckling covered in oil

OILED UP  Consuming even small amounts of crude oil can make birds sluggish.

MINNEAPOLIS — Birds don’t need to be drenched in crude oil to be harmed by spills and leaks.

Ingesting even small amounts of oil can interfere with the animals’ normal behavior, researchers reported November 15 at the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America. Birds can take in these smaller doses by preening slightly greasy feathers or eating contaminated food, for example.

Big oil spills, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, leave a trail of dead and visibly oily birds (SN: 4/18/15, p. 22). But incidents like last week’s 5,000-barrel spill from the Keystone pipeline — and smaller spills that don’t make national headlines — can also impact wildlife, even if they don’t spur dramatic photos.

To test how oil snacks might affect birds,

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