Guillemot, oiled, on shore in shallow water

Oiled birds

Oil pollution incidents can happen on any scale, ranging from small domestic spillages to major disasters involving a shipwrecked tanker.

What to do if you find an oiled bird

When large numbers of birds, dead or alive, are coming ashore, the Coastguard (for coastal incidents), the Environment Agency (for incidents inland), the RSPB, or RSPCA/SSPCA/USPCA should be informed as soon as possible about the pollution incident so it can be investigated.

If you find an oiled bird alive, do not attempt to clean it yourself. It is a very specialist job and you may well do more harm than good.

Carefully place the bird in a well-ventilated cardboard box, keep it warm and consult the RSPCA/SSPCA/USPCA  immediately to arrange to get the bird to correct treatment as soon as possible.

If large numbers of birds are affected, simply telephone RSPCA/SSPCA/USPCA for assistance.

Oil is particularly toxic to the bird if it ingests any of it, which easily happens when it is trying to preen off the oil. Because of this, oiled birds should be taken to an appropriate cleaning station as a matter of urgency.

A reminder

The RSPB does not run bird hospitals or a rescue service, and so we cannot help an oiled bird. The RSPCA (England and Wales), SSPCA (Scotland) and USPCA (Northern Ireland) are the national charities that help and advise on wildlife welfare matters. They have the specialist expertise and equipment for cleaning oiled birds, and are in the best position to help an oiled bird, whatever the source and nature of the oil on its plumage