Conservationist: Rescuing Birds Puts Many At Risk Melissa Block talks with Melanie Driscoll, director of Bird Conservation at the National Audubon Society's Louisiana Coastal Initiative, about her efforts to help oil-soaked birds along the Gulf Coast and the dilemmas faced by chasing oiled birds into their habitats.
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Conservationist: Rescuing Birds Puts Many At Risk

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Conservationist: Rescuing Birds Puts Many At Risk

Conservationist: Rescuing Birds Puts Many At Risk

Conservationist: Rescuing Birds Puts Many At Risk

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/127937267/127937255" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Melissa Block talks with Melanie Driscoll, director of Bird Conservation at the National Audubon Society's Louisiana Coastal Initiative, about her efforts to help oil-soaked birds along the Gulf Coast and the dilemmas faced by chasing oiled birds into their habitats.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

I spoke with her last month along the gulf. This week, she's been out in Louisiana's Barataria Bay. And she describes seeing three pelicans on a beach.

NORRIS: The state took a small boat called a pirogue. It's a little Louisiana boat. And as he got within a somewhat reasonable distance, the birds flew away. It took them a bit to get up off the ground. It was fairly labored flight, but they were able to fly away. And they went into the middle of the colony, so any attempt to capture those birds would cause tremendous disturbance.

BLOCK: And that raises a real question, right, of how far do you go if you're trying to rescue oiled birds? At what point do you create more of a danger for the ones that may not be oiled yet?

NORRIS: So if you approach, say, a nest with an oiled pelican chick in it and you approach - even if you can grab that chick out of the nest - say, with a net - it may have a sibling that's not oiled. And if that sibling jumps out and goes through the roots of the mangroves or through the marsh grass or onto rocks, then that chick is oiled. Well, the nests are so close together, you don't disturb just one nest, you may disturb 20. So at what point have you caused more harm than good?

BLOCK: And interesting, too, that these birds that you describe as pretty heavily oiled, were still able to fly, were able to elude capture.

NORRIS: Right. They're powerful birds. They have strong wings. At some point, those birds will be oiled enough or sick enough to capture. There's a strong criticism that people are waiting until birds are so sick that they might not survive the washing process. But again, you can kill them during the capture if they're too mobile. So it's a real dilemma. Nobody wants to have to make these decisions. Nobody's happy about having to sit and leave oiled birds on an island.

BLOCK: Melanie, I'm looking at a photograph you took of a huge pile of badly oiled boom that's on the water, right near nesting brown pelicans. This is boom that had not been picked up by the cleanup crews down there. What's going on?

NORRIS: And it only took about an hour. Why that wasn't done before, at one of the highest-priority nesting sites in Louisiana - that, I can't figure out. That's a severe frustration. We can't clean the oil off with birds there, not without creating a lot of harm. But at the very least, you could pull out the oil boom and put in new, absorbent boom. And that should be being done a lot faster, in my opinion.

BLOCK: Melanie Driscoll is Louisiana director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society. Melanie, thanks for talking with us.

NORRIS: Thank you, Melissa.

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