In collaboration with Patrick O'Hara at Environment Canada, I would like to collate records, photographs and incidental observations of the effect of fish oil on seabirds - specifically, contamination of plumage resulting in loss of waterproofing.
In 2001 I wrote a short article in Bird Numbers on the incidence of "soaked" Cape gannets observed at Ichaboe Island, Namibia. It is speculated that foraging on fish offal dumped at sea causes contamination of the birds' feathers by fish oil. The birds became waterlogged and unable to fly until their plumage dried (depending on the extent of the contamination), but became soaked again when entering the water. Rapid loss of body condition resulted and many soaked birds were seen dead.
I would like to collate information on the following:
- birds becoming contaminated with fish oil (observations at sea, captive/rehabilitating birds)
- loss of waterproofing not attributable to petrogenic oils (birds looking wet, but not obviously oiled)
- flying birds having difficulty taking off from water, especially in calm conditions
- flying birds swimming to shore, as opposed to flying
- sticky contamination on feathers, with a fishy smell
- albatross/petrel regurgitation - effect on feathers
- any other relevant information, records, photographs or insight
Any information that could contribute to our understanding of this phenomenon would be appreciated.