Up Close and Personal With the Birds Threatened by the Gulf Oil Spill (Photos + Video)

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Photos by Brian Merchant

As just about everyone around the Gulf holds their breath, waiting to see if that oil slick the size of Maryland will hit their part of the shoreline, concern continues to mount for the safety of the wildlife. Yesterday, I took a boat out to Cat Island, which is a thriving bird habitat -- it's also the island right next door to Dauphin, where oily tar balls are coming ashore and where I found hundreds of dead fish washing up onto its beaches. These birds, as you'll see in the videos below, would be gravely threatened if the island were to be hit by oil.Here's conservation scientist Judy Haner with the Nature Conservancy talking about the many kinds of birds on Cat Islands:

And here, she details some of the threats these birds face:

It's a beautiful, vulnerable island -- and my sub-par photography hardly does it justice. But this is more or less what it looks like:

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The good news is that even if oil were to make landfall here, there have been bird rescue centers set up around the gulf to tend to oiled birds. But obviously, conservationists are crossing their fingers that the oil steers clear altogether.

More On the Ground Reportage on the Gulf Oil Spill
Louisiana Governor Wants to Build New Islands to Ward Off Oil Slick
Oil Hits Louisiana Mainland - Exclusive First Photos & Video

Tags: Animals | Conservation | Gulf Oil Spill | Oil | Oil Spill | United States

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