10 Birds Under Threat From The Galveston Bay Oil Spill

Here are just some of the species at risk from the Galveston Bay oil spill, which leaked 168,00 gallons of fuel oil just off the coast of the globally significant Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary.

1. American Oystercatchers

Via hj, Flickr Creative Commons

American Oystercatchers can be seen on mudflats or intertidal sand as they probe for sandworms, oysters, mussels, and sea urchins. They are vulnerable to oil washing up on shore, which could harm them and their prey species. Read More

2. Black Skimmers

Via Barbara Bowen

Black Skimmers drag the lower half of their vibrant bills through the water to catch small fish as they whisk over oceans, bays, and saltmarshes. Up to 25 percent of the total Texas population nests on islands in Galveston Bay. Read More

3. Brown Pelican

Via Audubon / Roger Williams

Removed from the Endangered Species list in 2009 thanks to decades of hard work by conservationists, the Brown Pelican nests on island sanctuaries in Galveston Bay. They hunt for fish on open water making them particularly vulnerable to oil spills. Read More

4. Red Knots

Via Leo, Flickr Creative Commons

Red Knots complete one of the longest migrations of any bird, from the Arctic to southern South America and back each year. They depend on coastal habitat, including Texas’ Bolivar Flats for food along their arduous migration route. Read More

5. Reddish Egret

Via Kent Williams, Flickr Creative Commons

The Reddish Egret is a regal wading bird that resides in Texas year-round. Impacts from the Galveston Bay oil spill could affect this species’ breeding season, which takes place from early March through late July. Read More

6. Ruddy Turnstones

Via Heather Paul, Flickr Creative Commons

Ruddy Turnstones are long-distance migrants that feed on insects and aquatic invertebrates along beaches and jetties in Texas during the winter and on migration. Some oiled turnstones have already been found on the Bolivar Peninsula. Read More

7. Sanderlings

Via Dave Inman, Flickr Creative Commons

Migratory Sanderlings run close to the waves to gather crustaceans and insects, making them vulnerable to oil washing ashore. Houston Audubon Society has already found oiled Sanderlings in surveys following the spill. Read More

8. Piping Plover

Via hj, Flickr Creative Commons

With only 8,000 adults left, the Piping Plover is a bird on the brink. In winter, Texas can host 35 percent of the world’s Piping Plovers, just one reason an oil spill in this region could be devastating. Read More

9. Snowy Plover

Via Florida Fish and Wildlife

Snowy Plovers, an Audubon species of concern, winter and migrate along Galveston Bay beaches and tidal flats, where they hunt for small invertebrates. Like other shorebirds, Snowy Plovers are vulnerable to coming into contact with oil that washes ashore. Read More

10. Wilson’s Plover

Via Shell Game, Flickr Creative Commons

Wilson’s Plover has a global population of only a few thousand birds, many of which nest in Important Bird Areas along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Audubon Christmas Bird Count data show a sharp drop in Wilson’s Plover numbers since the 1960s. Read More

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