Western Grebes In Trouble
Source: Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network
Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network (SBWCN) cares for around 1,000 seabirds every year. One of the most common patients are western grebes. These birds are about 14” long with black and white feathers, red eyes, and a long yellow beak. They are frequently seen off the coast of beaches and in large, inland bodies of water, such as Lake Cachuma and Lake Casitas.
Western grebes spend their whole lives in the water. These birds only beach themselves when they are in fairly dire condition. They cannot run on sand, leaving them extremely vulnerable to attacks by predators, especially off-leash dogs. Attempting to run can result in severe foot lesions and fatal damage to their waterproofing. SBWCN has admitted 50 beached grebes in October alone. The volume of grebes is disturbing. More deceased grebes have been reported on beaches around Santa Barbara county. SBWCN is working to determine the cause of the sudden influx of beached grebes.
When these grebes are admitted to the center, they are often severely hypothermic. Some are emaciated due to lack of available food. Some have sustained injuries from dog attacks.
If you encounter a beached grebe, time is of the essence. The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network recommends the following:
A. Stay near the bird. Keep dogs and children away.
B. Call the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network Helpline: (805) 681-1080. If you cannot continue to stay near the bird, make sure SBWCN knows the exact location and condition of the bird.
C. After calling the helpline and determining that the grebe definitely needs immediate expert help, follow these steps IF AND ONLY IF you feel safe doing so:
1. Gently cover the grebe with a towel. Make sure the head stays covered.
2. Pick up the grebe by placing hands on both sides of the body.
3. Hold the grebe at hip-level with the head facing away from you (to prevent injury)
4. Place the grebe in a box lined with a soft cloth.
5. Keep it warm, dark, and quiet. Don’t peek.
6. Bring the grebe to the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network at 1460 N. Fairview Ave, Goleta, CA 93117 during intake hours: 8am - 6pm every day.
The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network encourages members of the public to call (805) 681-1080 for wildlife help and advice. SBWCN is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to saving and serving wildlife 365 days per year. Learn more: www.sbwcn.org