Snowy plovers largely survived an oil spill massacre that devastated bird populations more seriously than previously reported, according to a federal study.
Nearly 6,700 ducks, loons, cormorants, gulls, pelicans and other birds were likely killed by the toxic fuel that gushed out of the Cosco Busan’s hulls Nov. 7, 2007, after the container ship was piloted in heavy fog into a Bay Bridge support tower, according to a new report.
The death toll was determined by multiplying the known bird body count by a factor of roughly 2.3.
The 2.3 figure was determined by studying how long bird carcasses persisted on beaches, how difficult they were to find and how many of the deaths were caused by factors unrelated to the oil spill.
But nearly all Bay Area snowy plovers — tiny white-and-brown birds that nest in sand dunes and are listed federally as a threatened species — survived the devastation, according to the findings.
Results of a two-year study that tagged and monitored oiled and nonoiled snowy plovers after the accident suggest that “nearly all survived the spill,” the report said.
The study, which will form the basis of restoration plans that must be funded by maritime companies linked to the spill, concluded that 2,996 acres of coastline were exposed to oil.
The maritime companies linked to the spill do not agree with all the study’s findings, the report said.
Oil spill’s avian toll
Birds killed due to Nov. 7, 2007, Cosco Busan accident in the Bay:
1,632 Diving ducks, including scoters and scaup
1,133 Western, Clark’s and other large grebes
494 Eared, horned and other small grebes
129 Northern fulmars
21 Brown pelicans
609 Common murres
13 Marbled murrelets
130 Other members of the alcid family
318 Other marsh or land birds
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service