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Western Grebe on San Elijo Beach

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  • stolmstead
    This evening I was walking on San Elijo Beach in Cardiff when I came upon a Western Grebe sitting in the sand at about the surf line. I approached for a
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 14, 2005
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      This evening I was walking on San Elijo Beach in Cardiff when I
      came upon a Western Grebe sitting in the sand at about the surf
      line. I approached for a closer look and the bird screeched at me
      ("kreeeeeeeek!!!") and raised the feathers on its head and neck, but
      otherwise did nothing. It seemed to be completely coherent. I
      decided to back off and watch and see what was going on. The tide
      was coming in, and periodically a wave would come up far enough to
      completely surround the grebe with water; each time this happened it
      would stand up and walk further up the beach to get out of the
      water. (I had no idea Aechmophorus grebes could walk, and wow, did
      it look bizarre! The body was entirely upright and vertically
      oriented over the feet. It looked like a long-legged penguin
      staggering around.)
      Each time it sat back down it would preen vigorously, and a couple
      times as it walked out of the water, it paused in an upright
      position and preened its belly for a moment before settling back
      down. What stuck me as most unusual is that the bird appeared to be
      fleeing the water each time it got wet. What could cause this
      behavior? My only idea was that perhaps it was oiled and its
      feathers had lost their insulating capacity... However, it was not
      shivering as far as I could tell, and the plumage was not visibly
      discolored. I watched the bird sitting there preening until it was
      too dark to see.
      Has anyone seen anything like this before? And if it was oiled,
      is there anything an observer like myself can/should do in a
      situation like this? Thanks for any comments, I am quite curious!

      Scott Olmstead
    • tertial
      Scott, This behavior is very typical of oiled birds suffering from hypothermia. It is possible that the bird had a small amount of oil on the lower belly,
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 15, 2005
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        Scott,

        This behavior is very typical of oiled birds suffering from
        hypothermia. It is possible that the bird had a small amount of oil
        on the lower belly, which you could not see. This is enough to allow
        water to penetrate the bird's feathers and spread against the skin
        (like a hole in a wetsuit). More likely, however, is that the bird
        was oiled with a light invisible oil, such as diesel, gasoline, jet
        fuel, or even fish or vegetable oil. In this case, the feathers will
        often appear matted, like a wet dog.

        Steve Hampton
        Office of Spill Prevention and Response
        California Department of Fish and Game



        --- In CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com, "stolmstead" <stolmstead@y...> wrote:
        >
        >
        > This evening I was walking on San Elijo Beach in Cardiff when I
        > came upon a Western Grebe sitting in the sand at about the surf
        > line. I approached for a closer look and the bird screeched at me
        > ("kreeeeeeeek!!!") and raised the feathers on its head and neck,
        but
        > otherwise did nothing. It seemed to be completely coherent. I
        > decided to back off and watch and see what was going on. The tide
        > was coming in, and periodically a wave would come up far enough to
        > completely surround the grebe with water; each time this happened
        it
        > would stand up and walk further up the beach to get out of the
        > water. (I had no idea Aechmophorus grebes could walk, and wow, did
        > it look bizarre! The body was entirely upright and vertically
        > oriented over the feet. It looked like a long-legged penguin
        > staggering around.)
        > Each time it sat back down it would preen vigorously, and a
        couple
        > times as it walked out of the water, it paused in an upright
        > position and preened its belly for a moment before settling back
        > down. What stuck me as most unusual is that the bird appeared to
        be
        > fleeing the water each time it got wet. What could cause this
        > behavior? My only idea was that perhaps it was oiled and its
        > feathers had lost their insulating capacity... However, it was not
        > shivering as far as I could tell, and the plumage was not visibly
        > discolored. I watched the bird sitting there preening until it was
        > too dark to see.
        > Has anyone seen anything like this before? And if it was oiled,
        > is there anything an observer like myself can/should do in a
        > situation like this? Thanks for any comments, I am quite curious!
        >
        > Scott Olmstead
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