Dec 24, 2014

Christmas Eve rescue

It was early Christmas Eve morning when we received a call about an injured baby bird on the rooftop of Macy's, in Monterey.

We knew it couldn't be a baby - not this time of year - we suspected it might be a grounded loon or grebe. These are aquatic birds more suited for water than land. 

With legs sprouting from their rear, grebes and loons are off balance, unable to walk on hard surfaces. Out of the water, they must rest on their keel (breast bone), which can quickly become bruised and abraded.

To take flight, these species require a "runway" of water. Once grounded, they're helpless and vulnerable.

We arrived at Macy's and met up with George, the reporting party. George escorted us through the department store full of last-minute shoppers, into an elevator, up a stairwell to the roof. 

The rooftop was impressively large with a fortress-like wall surrounding it. 

George showed us where the bird was last observed, hiding under a massive duct, and sure enough, it was still there.

An eared grebe!

Eared grebes generally migrate at night. Perhaps this eared grebe was migrating south to its wintering grounds, when it mistook the gravel roof with large puddles of water for a sheltered marsh.

Duane collected the small bird with ease, and placed it in a cardboard pet carrier. 

The carrier was padded with a thick layer of balled-up newspaper covered with a towel. This helps distribute the bird's weight off its keel. In a hospital setting, aquatic birds are fitted with a "doughnut", developed by International Bird Rescue in 1995.

While the grebe appeared to be in relatively good shape, it seemed underweight. The bird was transported to the wildlife center at the SPCA for Monterey County for a full evaluation.

Check out the rescue video, below.

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