Oiled Up: An Environmental Study

Friday, February 12, 2016
Brooke Mott, Omaha Public Schools/ZooAcademy, Omaha, NE
Birds are a critical part to any environment and are affected by the actions of humans, especially when dealing with oil. In oil spills, birds are one of the largest groups of animals that are negatively affected. The crude oil that covers the bird cannot only destroy the feather altering a bird’s buoyancy heat regulation, but it can also kill the bird if it is ingested during preening. Instead of looking at how oil affects birds from large companies, this project focuses on oils that are commonly used at home and thrown away into the environment. To test the effect of oil on birds, bird feathers from a roseate spoonbill, Macaw, spur-winged goose, king penguin, and an African crown crane. For twenty four hours, each type of feather was placed in three oils: gas, motor oil, and cooking oil. Then visual and microscopic observations were taken to see the structural and surface alternations on the bird feathers and how it would overall affect the life of the bird. This research was conducted to help prove that common oils used in everyday homes, when not disposed of properly, can have negative effects on the birds in the surrounding environment.