How to Volunteer to Help Birds Affected by the BP Gulf Oil Spill

The BP oil spill in the Gulf will have long lasting consequences for the wildlife and the habitat of the region. Although most people are inspired to volunteer by the devastating images of struggling oiled birds, acting impulsively can do more harm than good. The Audubon Action Center website states, “Hands-on work to protect and save birds and other wildlife will be a complex and potentially dangerous process, and first and foremost it is important that only trained volunteers participate on the front lines. Untrained volunteers can pose a risk not only to themselves, but to the birds and wildlife they are trying to save.” Since trained volunteers will best serve the wildlife and habitat of the region, get that training and help by contacting one or more of the professional organizations responding to the oil spill.

BP Community Support Team Hotline

When calling this number you will be asked to leave your name and phone number. A volunteer coordinator will then call you back as the need for more volunteers arises. Call 1-866-448-5816 to add your name to the list of potential volunteers.

Audubon Action Center

The Audubon Action Center is coordinating volunteer response to the Gulf oil spill on several fronts. Birders can help by documenting any birds and nests they see along the wetlands and coasts of the Gulf of Mexico. This allows oil spill workers to identify areas of large bird populations in the path of the oil and prioritize their response. Instructions for surveying birds along the Gulf coast are found at eBird.org/content/ebird/news/survey-gulf-coast-birds. Submit your bird counts and observations by registering at eBird.org under the “Submit Observations” tab.

To sign up to volunteer directly with the care of the affected birds, Audubon requests that you fill out its online volunteer registration form. Questions asked on the form include information about previous experience with wildlife and hazmat training, availability, and if you can attend two days of training, each 12 hours long. For more information, go to the Audubon Action Center’s “Gulf Coast Oil Disaster: How You Can Help” main webpage.

Report Oiled Birds

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asks individuals who see an oiled bird along the Gulf coast to call 1-866-557-1401. This information is passed on to volunteers and staff trained to capture, transport and care for oiled birds. The USFWS asks that you do not attempt to capture the birds yourself.

Local Volunteer Organizations

Local organizations in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida have set up information and updates for volunteers needed and upcoming trainings available. Volunteer positions may include administrative work, fundraising, volunteer coordination, wildlife monitors and reporters, transport, construction, and much more. In some cases, paid positions may open up. To sign up to help through these local organizations visit one of the following websites for more information.

· Volunteer Louisiana

· Volunteer Mississippi

· Volunteer Florida

· Alabama Volunteering

This spill is the largest and longest running in U.S. history. The sheer size along with the coordination efforts between multiple states, federal agencies and the company responsible, combined with the thousands of people wanting to volunteer who need training, makes the volunteer coordination challenging. If you are able to meet the needs of several organizations, then put your name on as many volunteer lists as you can. Check the websites regularly for updates, as this is the quickest way to communicate with all interested volunteers. When you are called to volunteer training, set aside your frustration, as this will not be helpful to the birds at this time. Instead, prepare to learn a lot of information quickly and work hard, and you will make a difference for the birds involved.

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