Wildlife officials at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say Saturday's oil spill in Galveston, Texas could affect the loons and other migratory birds that will soon fly to Minnesota and elsewhere in the Midwest.
The full effect of the spill is not yet known, but oil-covered loons have already been found and the oil could hurt many other birds, said Carrol Henderson, a non-game wildlife supervisor for the DNR.
"There would be a whole variety of species: white pelicans, shore birds like spotted sandpipers, ringneck ducks would be another possibility, lesser scaup, American bitterns, yellow rails," he said. "There's a whole suite of wetland birds that would live in either the marshes or immediate off-shore areas that could be affected."
Henderson said researchers believe adult Minnesota loons usually winter far east of Galveston but it's possible other species such as pelicans and sandpipers will be affected. Researchers will know more when they observe the loons and other birds after they migrate to Minnesota this summer.
"At this point we don't know what proportion of the total gulf loon population might be affected by this oil spill, but obviously it's not a beneficial thing," he said.
DNR researchers are still tracking loons affected by the 2010 BP oil spill in the gulf. They expect to continue that work this summer with a grant from state lottery dollars.