Yesterday, reports surfaced that birds landed in the toxic sludge-filled lakes that surround the tar sands mines in northern Alberta. Over 120 birds had to be euthanized because they were covered in oily sludge and were suffering a slow death.

Oiled tar sands duck from

Quick to pinpoint the cause of this tragic event, we hear that meteorological conditions may be to blame. Freezing rain and stormy conditions forced the birds to look for refuge. And sadly, but not surprising, the company’s techniques for shooing away the birds—propane cannons and little stick figures dressed in yellow rain slickers—didn’t seem to do the trick.

No Place to Land

Yes, storm conditions cause wildlife to seek shelter and refuge. But north of Fort McMurray, there is no safe refuge, where the mine operations of the world’s oil giants span an area the size of metro Chicago that lies precisely in the migratory path of dozens of North America’s beloved shore and song birds—warblers, ducks, cranes. Millions could die.

When migrating birds are tired from their long journey, what they find in Fort McMurray are toxic sludge ponds the size of lakes. From the sky they look like just the right place to land. Little do they know what greets them when they land.

Will Syncrude Release Images?

Given that the incident occurred on the massive operations leased by Syncrude, the likelihood of getting images of oiled birds is remote. And while we know images are often what propel demands for change, in this case, we only need to pull from the photo archives of previous bird deaths in the tar sands mines to be reminded of what it looks like. The same company was recently prosecuted and fined C$3 million for negligence that lead to the deaths of 1,600 birds.

Secretary Clinton said last week that we either need to rely on dirty oil from the Gulf or dirty oil from Canada to fuel our cars and trucks–dirty oil that contaminates our fisheries, dirty oil that ruins local economies, dirty oil that poisons, drowns, or suffocates thousands of birds.

Oil killed the birds in tar sands country. Not freezing rain.

Speak Up for the Birds!

Speak up for the wildlife that has died and the wildlife that could die because of this destructive and unnecessary process. Email President Obama and the U.S. State Department and urge them to stop plans for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.