We used wooden blocks to estimate the proportion of oiled seabird carcasses that were likely to be recovered on beaches of St Paul Island, Alaska following a near-shore oil spill. We released a total of 302 blocks 6 km north of the island in 1997 at the site of a 17 II 1996 oil spill. We used a paired design and released half the blocks when the winds were onshore and released the second half when the winds were offshore. We systematically searched beaches after the second release to recover blocks. We recovered 93 of 152 (61%) blocks released when winds were onshore but only 1 of 150 (0.7%) blocks released when winds were offshore. Given that winds following the 1996 spill were offshore, we conclude that most birds killed at sea following the 1996 spill were likely not recovered on beaches.