October 5, 2008

Mystery Oil Slick Endangers Sea Birds

Investigators searched Saturday for the source of a mystery oil slick off the Scottish coast that has fouled scores of sea birds.

Volunteers had found at least 130 birds covered with oil, The Scotsman reported.

The slick in the Pentland Firth between the mainland and the Orkney Islands was first noticed in mid-week. Officials said they believe the oil was either illegally dumped by a ship or released from a wreck.

Richard Bradley of British Marine Divers Rescue said the slick comes at an especially bad time for sea birds in the area.

"At this time of year, the birds will be 'rafting' together on the surface and diving for food to last them through the winter," he said. "They stick together to provide protection but because they are on or under the water they come into contact with the oil."

The birds affected by the oil include guillemots, eider ducks, gulls, razorbills, red-throated divers and geese.