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In the Wild: Surf Scoters


Last week's oil spill in the San Francisco Bay threatens many local wildlife species from harbor seals to leopard sharks. Most of the spilled oil will never be recovered, and eventually will dissolve into the water. However, lingering, concentrated globules will continue to cause problems for visiting seabirds, like the surf scoter seen above.

Every November, around 80,000 of these birds stop in the Bay Area, a prime-feeding stop for birds wintering on the Pacific Flyway. This duck-like species arrives hungry, and plans to live on the water's surface and dive for fish. But, when oil gets on their feathers, it disrupts their waterproofing system and ability to stay warm — and forces them on shore where they are at risk of starvation.

State wildlife officials have received hundreds of reports of oiled birds found on Bay Area beaches, and rescue teams continue to locate seabirds tarred with black-shipping fuel — the live birds are sent to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield, Calif., where they are warmed, rehydrated, and thoroughly cleaned using Dawn dishwashing soap.

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