Estonian oil spill threatens 35,000 birds

February 7, 2006

As many as 35,000 birds, including rare white-tailed eagles and eagle owls, are in danger as the result of an oil spill off Estonia's northwest coast.

The most-affected area is a 22-mile stretch of coast in the northwest of the country, near the Gulf of Finland, The Independent reported Tuesday. More than 3,000 dead birds, heavily coated in oil, have been found in the polluted waters of the Baltic Sea.

But Vilju Lilleleht, a spokesman for the Estonian Ornithological Society, told the newspaper only about 10 percent of bird casualties are found in the aftermath of oil spills.

The spill of approximately 20 tons of oil was reported Saturday, southwest of Tallinn. Many of the birds are far out to sea and have taken refuge on thin ice, The Independent said.

The source of the spill was not immediately determined and authorities said it is highly unlikely the particular ship responsible for the disaster will ever be identified.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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