Leading a local community in appreciating, understanding, and protecting birds and their natural habitats.


Greater Scaup, Ring-billed Gull, Western Grebe oiled after the 2007 Cosco Busan spill, San Francisco CA @ Glen Tepke

Oil and Birds

Oiled birds face several life-threatening issues. Birds rely on the interconnecting barbs of their feathers for waterproofing and insulation. Oil greatly compromises this feather structure, making temperature regulation, floating, and foraging difficult. Birds that are not rescued for rehabilitation can die from hypothermia, drowning, an inability to escape predators, and toxicity due to oil ingestion from preening.


Did You Know?

15 billion gallons of oil are transported through Puget Sound every year?

More than 4,000 vessels travel in and out of Puget Sound every year?

818 spills were reported in Puget Sound in 2007, totaling 5,469 gallons of oil?

Engaging Citizens

A major hurdle in responding to an oil spill is knowing where the oil—and wildlife—are located. Seattle Audubon Society initiated the Puget Sound Seabird Survey to learn about the densities of wintering seabirds (e.g., waterfowl, loons, grebes, cormorants, gulls and alcids) in Puget Sound. These data-collected monthly by citizen scientists October through April—are incorporated into the oil spill-response plans created by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Oiled Wildlife program (WDFWOW). When real-time data are needed during a spill, trained observers within the Audubon network are ready.

Economic Value of Wildlife

The Salish Sea has 172 species of birds that depend on the marine ecosystems. Bird watching is one of the most popular wildlife-viewing activities for Washingtonians, who have the fourth-highest participation rate in the country. 36% of Washington residents regularly participate in bird-watching activities; 16% fish recreationally.


How YOU Can Help

Report All Spills!
  • Call: 1-800-258-5990 or 1-800-OILS-911 (WA Emergency Management Division).

Review and Comment on Your GRP

  • Geographic Response Plans (GRPs) are plans that identify important natural and cultural resources in your area that would need immediate protection when a spill occurs.

Have Your Say

  • Contact your state and federal legislators and demand legislation that requires Washington State to have the best oil-spill prevention and response program possible.


  • Contact the Washington State Departments of Ecology and Fish & Wildlife for training and volunteer information.




Resources and References

Government Agencies
Oiled Wildlife Response and Care
Seattle Audubon is nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Copyright Seattle Audubon.