“How to Rescue a Shorebird”

Northern Gannet rescued at Bathtub Beach 2-12-14
Northern Gannet rescued at Bathtub Beach 2-12-14

I believe the first shorebird I “rescued” was a blue heron, along the St Lucie River. I was in middle school and my friends found the magnificent, four foot tall creature, caught in fishing line in Rio, in the mangroves by their home. If I remember correctly, I was the one who held the beak and  body while my friends cut away the fishing line. I never let go, and my best friend, Vicki Whipkey, had an older sister Beth, who drove us to a Veterinarian, Dr Hooks.  This was about 1976. I felt oddly important; I had a purpose, to help…

I have always felt a responsibility to assist animals in distress, but one must be careful. How I learned this stuff, I’ll never know. I think it was just part of growing up in Stuart when it was small and we as we were always outdoors. And my parents always had some animal for my brother and sister and I to raise: a raccoon, a robin, a opossum, a black snake….

With birds, the most  important thing is to be very careful of the beak. Almost any shorebird, can  take out an eye very quickly. Of course the bird is scared and thinks you are a predator when you try to rescue it, so if you are not comfortable, just call the authorities.

If you feel  inclined, have a towel or shirt in one hand and ideally someone else with you; don’t hesitate, grab the beak and close it, not covering the nostrils;  be gentle with  the head and neck but be firm, you must be in control;  move the head inward, in the direction of the neck’s natural curve, close to  bird’s body; now use your other hand to  scoop its  body up and into your arms; keep the  head away from your  face.  You’re almost done!

Now to get the bird some help. I have driven pelicans to the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center while holding them in my lap,  probably not a good idea. Ideally, you have a large container and gently put them into it, covering it so they calm down. You can now deliver the bird or call the authorities to come pick it up.

The Treasure Coast Wildlife Center is located at 8626 SW Citrus Blvd. Palm City, Florida 34990, 772-286-6200. Animal Control’s number  is 772-220-7170, through the Sheriff’s non emergency number.

Most recently with the Gannet, it was after 5PM so I had to call Animal Control. The control officer’s name was Michele Thonney. She was terrific: prompt, knowledgeable, and compassionate. I am planning on writing Sheriff Snyder a note  expressing my gratitude for his professional staff. She even sent me a link to a video on Gannets (below), amazing dive bomb birds that hunt fish from fantastic heights and can swim/dive 40 plus feet deep; they live at sea and  migrate thousands of miles, if “from around here,” probably to Nova Scotia.  Their airodynamic bodies have been used in the design of missiles. It is rare to find a Gannet along our Martin County beaches: I feel lucky to have helped one. Good luck to you, should you decide to as well!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwPrXOtBoVg

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