"Island Off Alabama Coast Bursting With Birds After Oil Spill"

"Thousands of baby pelicans grunt and hiss at their parents in tightly packed nests on Gaillard Island, a feathered paradise situated off the coast of Alabama.

The 1,300-acre, man-made island is hosting more than 50,000 birds this summer as nesting pairs gather to raise babies. That number would be considered high in any year, but it's a particularly surprising sight a year after oil from the BP spill fouled surrounding waters.

The Deepwater Horizon rig explosion spewed more than 168 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over three months, the largest spill in U.S. history. But so far, there is no evidence of deformities or ill health among the young on Gaillard Island.

Scientists speculate that the baby boom probably results from an abundance of fish left undisturbed in waterways where the federal government banned commercial and recreational fishing last summer, providing a feast for shore birds.

In a speech this spring, the executive director of the nearby Dauphin Island Sea Lab said the fish populations in that part of the Gulf were larger than he had ever seen."

Verna Gates reports for Reuters July 11, 2011.

Monday, July 11, 2011