Had a fun call today. A gal in Arizona wound up with a little grebe that someone had found under a car, and had called her since she had a parrot. Well lucky for this Eared Grebe he wound up with an absolute angel who cared about him so much she googled grebes and found me on facebook! I have received calls from folks around the states and even Canada occasionally who have found these wonderful birds and just had no idea what to do.
With me advising, Michelle got this bird hydrated, cleaned up a bit - via a plastic tub and a shower - and then drove it part of the way on its track to the Salton Sea - where most eared grebes on the west side of the continent winter. These cuties cannot take off from land. They need a good bit of water to get running on and launch themselves. Their wings are excellent at swimming but not large enough to lift their heavy little bodies into the air from a static position.
Given clean water, these guys will clean and hydrate themselves. And a large plastic tub or a very clean bathtub will work for that. HOWEVER, its really imperative that the water is perfectly clean or they can wind up soiling their feathers with their own oily poop. So, the water is dumped and fresh put in up to 3 times an hour...every poop means fresh clean water.
Once they are warmed up (if their cold), hydrated, and floated for a bit, they can be taken to an appropriate drop off point. These birds - especially the Eared Grebe - have unique adaptions they go through to migrate. Their intestinal tracts atrophy (get smaller) by as much as 25% or more. And they do not eat in migration. This allows them to get as light as possible so they can fly faster and more efficiently. They should not be force fed, especially fish. Not only can the oils run down their chins making their feathers oily (which ruins their waterproofing), but the fish may not digest, instead rotting in their guts. So best, to call someone for help in evaluation (this can be done distantly) and then figure out what next to do.
We evaluated this bird (to be covered later) and decided he was healthy enough not to go into rehab. Which was a good thing since there was no one near to her. In the end, little Eared Grebe wound up loving his 'shower' (tub with light shower flowing into it), and got ready for release. Michelle and her husband took the cutie pie down to a lake that other Eared Grebes had been seen on (ebird is how to find these locations) and successfully released.
He was pretty darn close to the Salton Sea from his release site, so he should be at his destination in the next few days. The Salton Sea is a saltine lake that has a lot of brine shrimps and other foods that these grebes need to get through winter. Mono Lake in California and Lake Abert, and Great Salt Lake are other saltine lakes critical to these birds.
Native Bird Care is small. But the work we do is critical. The needs of the birds we work with - song, shore, and waterbirds - are often underestimated. Each species is so unique that we must cater to each type of bird and their particular needs in care and housing. Add to that, handling these birds can be tricky; they all require specialized training.