Fri April 5, 2013
Late Spring Problematic For Migrating Loons, Grebes
The late spring is causing big problems for migrating loons and grebes in northern Wisconsin. The birds are helpless without open water to land on.
The Raptor Education Group wildlife rehabilitation center near Antigo has some new boarders: pied-billed grebes that have returned north, only to find ice-covered lakes. Executive Director Marge Gibson says the birds are desperate to find open water.
“We started getting calls about a week ago with pied-billed grebes, people finding them in parking lots. They fly at night, they migrate at night, so they see something shiny and dark and they think it's water and they land, and it's asphalt. They're completely helpless. There's no way they can get airborne.”
Grebes and loons cannot get airborne unless they get a running start on open water. Gibson says their legs aren't built for solid ground.
“People often think that they have broken legs because their legs are located so far back on the bird. They're made for diving and swimming. You know, generally at this point in time, big parts of our lakes are open.”
Because the birds are helpless, people have been able to pick them up and take them to the Antigo area shelter. Gibson lets the grebes swim in bathtubs filled with minnows.
“Put them in a little box. Bring them to us. And if they're low in weight, we can get their weight back up to normal, and then get them back into open water, when that becomes available.”
Marge Gibson worries that there will be even more trouble next week when migrating loons are scheduled to return north.
You can find video of the rescued pied-billed grebes on the Raptor Education Group Facebook page.