Migrating birds, nesting pelicans, and river otter and mink living along Louisiana's fragile coastline are in the path of the oil oozing ashore after the massive oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Louisiana's coastal islands and barrier marshes are home to hundreds of species. Protecting the ecosystem will be a "mind-boggling" task, says one scientist. "I'm frightened," he tells the AP. "This is a very, very big thing."
Oil can kill birds. The substance clumps in their feathers, leaving them without insulation. The oil is ingested when birds preen, causing anemia, hemorrhaging and other problems. Mink and river otters can also be poisoned if they eat oiled carcasses, scientists say. To protect birds, oil protection booms have been set out on islands and sandy passes where pelicans, gulls, and skimmers nest.