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Birds are vulnerable to petroleum pollution, and exposure has a range of negative effects resulting from plumage fouling, systemic toxicity, and embryotoxicity. Recent research has not been synthesized since Leighton's 1993 review despite the continued discharge of conventional petroleum, including high-volume oil spills and chronic oil pollution, as well as the emergence of understudied unconventional crude oil types. To address this, we reviewed the individual-level effects of crude oil and refined fuel exposure in avifauna with peer-reviewed articles published 1993-2020 to provide a critical synthesis of the state of the science. We also sought to answer how unconventional crude petroleum effects compare with conventional crude oil. Relevant knowledge gaps and research challenges were identified. The resulting review examines avian exposure to petroleum and synthesizes advances regarding the physical effects of oil hydrocarbons on feather structure and function, as well the toxic effects of inhaled or ingested oil, embryotoxicity, and how exposure affects broader scale endpoints related to behavior, reproduction, and survival. Another outcome of the review was the knowledge gaps and challenges identified. The first finding was a paucity of oil ingestion rate estimates in birds. Characterizing environmentally realistic exposure and ingestion rates is a higher research priority than additional conventional oral dosing experiments. Second, there is an absence of toxicity data for unconventional crude petroleum. Although the effects of air and water contamination in the Canadian oil sands region have received attention, toxicity data for direct exposure to unrefined bitumen produced there in high volumes and other such unconventional oil types are needed. Third, we encountered barriers to the interpretation, replication, broad relevance, and comparability of studies. We therefore propose best practices and promising technological advancements for researchers. This review consolidates our understanding of petroleum's effects on birds and points a way forward for researchers and resource managers. Crown Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Mason D King, John E Elliott, Tony D Williams. Effects of petroleum exposure on birds: A review. The Science of the total environment. 2021 Feb 10;755(Pt 1):142834

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PMID: 33109373

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