Is Official BP Spill Death Toll Too Low? New Data Shows 1,200 Oiled Birds Found in Pensacola Alone


Photo credit: Brian Merchant

Everyone seems to be forgetting about the BP spill -- except, of course, for the millions of people still dealing with it every day. So, in an effort to prevent the event from vanishing from our collective memories completely (it seems already to have escaped our finest politicians, who are moving ahead with plans for more offshore drilling) I try to make sure to check in on the Gulf now and again. So here's a recent development from Pensacola -- newly released documents reveal that at least 1,200 oiled birds were officially picked up in that city alone. 800 of them were already dead, and hundreds more died later on. Could this mean that more birds perished in the spill than authorities are letting on?The Pensacola News Journal reports:

An oil spill response database obtained by the News Journal shows more than 1,200 dead and live birds were collected near Pensacola during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill ... The data, which were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, provide new insights to where oiled birds were found, and what species were hit hardest by the oil spill.

A few numbers from the data, which span from April to November, 2010:

» 1,202 birds were collected near Pensacola.
» 799 were dead when collected.
» 403 were collected alive, but many later died.
» The Northern gannet was the hardest hit species. About 246 were collected dead and alive near Pensacola.
» The laughing gull was the next hardest hit, with 280 total collected.
» Other species with large numbers of deaths included the common loon, greater shearwater, brown pelican, pied-bill grebe and great blue heron.

For the full, unfortunate report, head over to

To me, this data seems to show that the number of birds officially stated to have been killed in the spill may be grossly underestimated -- the official tally, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is 6,147 as of April 17th, 2011. But if Freedom of Information requests reveal that over 1,000 died in Pensacola alone, it seems that many, many more than 5,000 other birds probably perished in the entire Gulf -- especially in the places in Louisiana which were much harder hit. This is purely speculation at this point, but it's an interesting lead that should be pursued.

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More on Birds of the Gulf Oil Spill
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