Based on two computer simulations, researchers estimate that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico killed around 600,000 to 800,000 coastal birds.
In one simulation, the estimated death toll stemmed from the number of bird carcasses recovered in the area around the spill and other environmental factors. In the other simulation, researchers used bird population numbers and exposure rates to oil slicks. Four species in particular had high death tolls: the laughing gull, royal tern, northern gannet and the brown pelican.
The findings will appear in Marine Ecology Progress Series. The study was funded by two law firms representing clients with claims against BP, the oil company responsible for the spill.