Susan has been very busy grooming dogs for the holiday and Martin has been busy all day with phone calls about little birds that cannot fly. People are finding these little football shaped birds with red eyes all over Southern Utah, from Richfield to Cedar City. Most of them are Eared Grebes and some Western Grebes which are all migrating through the state heading south. They cannot take off into flight from land and can’t even walk well on land, so they are easy to pick up.
But watch out, they bite with their little pointy beaks, at least its not serious.
They can only take off from water. Lakes and rivers reflect the moon at night and that is where they land to rest on their migration. Guess what looks just like lakes and rivers at night to these little birds? Streets and parking lots that are wet with rain or snow with street lights shinning on them. So during storms when the pavement is wet, it looks like water to these birds and they land thinking it is a safe water landing where they can rest and eat.
Unfortunately they have some rough landings and can get scraped up hitting the pavement, but usually survive the initial landing, they just can’t take off again and can get run over by cars or snow plows. Some lands in yards and other places so people are finding them here and there.
What do you do if you come across one?
Usually, call your State Fish and Wildlife Service or a local wildlife rescue organization such as the Southwest Wildlife Foundation in Southern Utah, but in cases where hundreds of these birds are landing all over the state. They might need a little extra help from good Samaritans. They need to be taken to open water that is not frozen over and released on the water. They can relax, feed and take off when ready to resume their migration. They can be picked up and transported in a box to the nearest lake or reservoir that is not frozen over and then released.
With another big storm beginning tonight and going for the next couple of days, we have a feeling there will be more in need of rescue. Several years ago about 4000 landed in southern Utah during a big storm. Many of them died after landing on the freeway, Main Street and parking lots. Drivers don’t always see them so many perished getting run over.
Many of them were gathered up by good Samaritans and taken to Utah Wildlife Resources and the Southwest Wildlife Foundation. Volunteers were taking boxes full of them down to Quail Creek Reservoir, which wasn’t frozen over, where they were released for several days.
Lets hope we don’t have a repeat, that only a few came down in the wrong place, but we want to educate you all just in case.