Friday, January 4, 2013

Out of the Frying Pan

Grease bins contain used fryer oil from restaurants. Here, the lid is left open.

Over the last week, we received multiple reports of a gull entangled in fishing line and hooks. It was apparently hanging out at the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, at the far end by the restaurants.

On December 30, Duane and Rebecca went to look. Armed with a long-handled net and a big bag of Fritos, the duo began scouring the pier in search of the injured seabird.

As they were walking past the first set of restaurants, Rebecca happened to spot a rock pigeon in an open grease bin. It was feasting on fatty bits and pieces suspended in the discarded fryer oil.

Oil is oil, and exposure to it can be extremely harmful to birds.

Feathers act like shingles on a roof - it's their structure and alignment that protect a bird from the elements and help it retain body heat.

Certain substances can cause feathers to 'collapse' - like oil or soapy water. When this happens, a bird loses its ability to thermoregulate and can quickly suffer hypothermia.

This close-up of a pelican's chest illustrates how feathers can part down to the skin, letting in cold water and air. This bird was exposed to water discharged from a fish processing facility in Monterey. 

The pigeon was greasy and in trouble, and so were a handful of others nearby. It was obvious they, too, had dined at the grease bin. 

Note the 'puffed-up' and 'hunched' appearance. This often indicates a bird is cold or unwell. 

The team planned their capture, setting the net and baiting the birds with crumbles. Within a few minutes they caught four oiled pigeons - two by hand!

With the rock pigeons safely contained in ventilated containers in the rescue vehicle, Duane and Rebecca resumed their search for the gull.

It wasn't long before it appeared - walking out from behind a parked car. The bird was hungry, and baited-in easily.

All five birds were transported to Native Animal Rescue in Santa Cruz.

We are extremely grateful to have them as a resource for infirm wildlife, including rock pigeons. Many wildlife rehabilitation hospitals do not treat pigeons as they are a non-native species.

The rock pigeon, also known as the rock dove, is not native to North America. It was introduced from Europe in the 1600s. It's not clear where their original range was, but hieroglyphics indicate pigeons were domesticated at least 5,000 years ago.

Check out the short video, below, to learn more about the amazing rock pigeon. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all you do, WildRescue - and especially for not discriminating against wildlife that isn't "native."