Last night, one of our lead responders, Deanna Barth, responded to a call about an aquatic bird on Southside Road in Hollister, CA - in the middle of nowhere, no body of water nearby.
Thankfully, the reporting party had remembered Deanna's post about a cormorant found in the same area, so she knew to call for help.
Deanna scooped up the small, softball-sized eared grebe from the wet pavement and placed it into a heavily padded carrier to protect its keel, or sternum, from developing pressure wounds.
Grebes are diving birds, built for life on the water, not on land. Once grounded, they are essentially helpless - unable to walk or take flight.
If they are out of the water too long, they can develop keel lesions - bruising and pressure sores on the breastbone.
When these types of birds are transported, it's important they be placed into a padded container. Something as simple as a thick layer of balled-up newspaper covered with a bath towel can help distribute the bird's weight off its keel.
In a wildlife hospital setting, aquatic birds are fitted with a "donut" - a ring of padding that protects the keel.
Although the grebe appeared uninjured, as wildlife paramedics it is not our place to make medical decisions - we needed to have the bird looked at by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, so, Deanna transported the grebe to the SPCA for Monterey County where it was given a thorough examination.
As we suspected, the grebe was in good condition and could be returned to the wild.
Here's what we think happened - why this bird was found on a country road, far from water. It had been raining - the roads were wet and reflective and the moon was full and bright. We believe the grebe was migrating south and saw what appeared to be a body of water, but was actually wet pavement.
Here's a quick video of the grebe after it was released: