The recent Orange County oil spill is a reminder that our coastline is precious and a vital resource for the wildlife that passes through our area.

Take a closer look at something that's vital to migratory birds: the Pacific Flyway.

Five things you need to know:

  1. Every year, about a billion birds migrate through Southern California. Born of the Arctic and the forests of the north, they undertake a perilous journey of thousands of miles south — to warmer, tropical breeding grounds.
  2. To make it, the birds need huge amounts of food and protected habitats, which are proving harder and harder to find as humans encroach more into their world.
  3. The marshy areas of the Bolsa Chica Reserve and the Santa Ana Estuary near Huntington Beach are perfect places for birds to pass through or sit out the winter.
  4. Pacific loons, ospreys, brown pelicans, hummingbirds and even the endangered western snowy plovers stop in the exact places threatened by recent oil spills. Many of these species are likely to arrive soon, and the clock is ticking to see how badly they may be affected.
  5. It's increasingly becoming challenging for marine and shorebirds to thrive when their habitats are threatened in this way. And it's easy to question if oil and fossil fuel exploration and drilling should continue if this is the result, but the plain truth is that until our species steps back from needing fossil fuels, this is still likely to be the consequence.

It's also proof that when oil spills happen, it's not just marine life that is threatened but also a complex ecosystem that supports our vital life up in the air.