OilingThe spreading of oil over a bird's feathers, eithe rduring preening or as a result of mineral oil fouling an aquatic bird after discharge, accidental or otherwise, into the sea or an inland water. Mineral oil causes the plumage to lose its insulating and waterproofing qualities, thus, in most cases, eventually killing the bird. Birds attempting to remove the oil with their bills often swallow lethal quantities of it. Oil pollution of coastal waters is becoming increasingly serious, affecting all types of seabird, especially the auks (family Alcidae).
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From Peter Weaver's Birdwatcher's Dictionary
Copyright © 1981 by Peter Weaver