Oily Feathers (Biology Experiments)

This experiment shows you the horrible effects that polluting detergents can have on birds.
Things Required:
1 quart (1 litre) clear glass bowl
Measuring cup (250 ml)
Liquid oil
Powdered washing detergent
Measuring spoon-teaspoon (5 ml)

Pour 1 cup of water into the bowl. Add 1 spoon of liquid oil. Observe the surface of the water. Sprinkle 2 spoons of powdered detergent over the surface of the liquid. Gently stir the water to mix, but try not to produce bubbles. Again, observe the surface of the water.
This Is What Happens:
The oil spread out in large circles on the surface of the water before the addition of the detergent. When the detergent was added, some of the oil sank and the rest broke up into tiny bubbles that covered the surface of the water.
Science Behind It:
Water is heavier and does not mix with oil, thus the oil was able to float on the surface of the water. Detergent molecules stick to water on one side and the opposite side of the detergent sticks to the oil. The large circles of oil no longer exist because there are the molecules of the detergent which allows the oil and water to mix. Detergents can cause a swimming bird to sink and drown. Birds stay afloat because of the oil on their feathers. The birds are waterproof. If the birds become soaked in water containing a high concentration of detergent, the natural oil in the birds’ feathers would break up into tiny droplets and allow water to penetrate the feathers. The bird would lose its waterproofing and the extra water on the feathers would increase the bird’s weight and it would sink.

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