BP - as well as other oil companies - and their PR teams had assured Americans that this type of catastrophe would not happen (does this sound familiar? Think Wall Street banks). And BP - as well as the other oil companies with deep-water platforms off American coasts - was not prepared for the extent of this catastrophe. So their response (it is THEIR responsibility, after all) has been ineffective, as the well continues, 14 days later, to spill oil into the waters of the gulf.
The effect on the US and the world, let alone the gulf states, is immense. Local fisheries and tourism could be devastated. Thousands of wildlife (turtles, fish, birds, and more) could die or be weakened, all at the height of nesting season and migration. Future wildlife populations may also be impacted, depending on the species' reproductive rate and strategy.
So as I look out on my yard this fine sunny spring day, how could this impact MY birds when I am thousands of miles from the spill?
The biggest impact we'll see will be amongst migratory birds that pass through the gulf area on their way to their summer homes in our area or more northerly points. Many of these neotropical migrants spend their winters in areas bordering the gulf or pass through the gulf from winter homes in central or South America. Check out these range maps of some of our favorite migratory birds, paying particular attention to the blue (winter) and yellow (migration) areas:
These birds' (plus hundreds of other species) migratory routes take them over or around the impacted gulf area. And since the spill and subsequent mitigation efforts negatively impact the water, the air, and the habitats surrounding the gulf, it could be tough for them to avoid the damage.
Then there's the impact on fall migration. Migratory songbirds that are safely in our yards now to breed could pass through these impacted areas come fall. Bird populations are at their highest in the fall, with adult birds as well as all the first-year birds making the journey to wintering grounds. Habitats along the gulf that typically provide vital food, water, and shelter during their southward migration could be in no condition to support the millions of birds that rely on them. Will their southward journey be successful? Will their winter habitats be able to support them?
Only time will tell. Check out conservation sites like the American Bird Conservancy to see how you can help. Longer term, participating in citizen science projects like Project FeederWatch will help scientists see how this catastrophe has impacted bird populations.