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Now clean, oiled birds released | LA Times

October 14, 2021

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

Following up on last week’s blog about oiled Western Snowy Plovers, Los Angeles Times reporter Robin Estrin describes more of the process and the final release back into the wild of an Eared Grebe and a Ruddy Duck.

ScreenSnip from L.A. Times

Cleansed of oil, birds harmed by Orange County spill take flight in Huntington Beach
Los Angeles Times | Robin Estrin | 14 Oct 2021 | 5 minute read

Excerpted from the article:

On Oct. 3, the first winged victim of the Orange County oil spill washed ashore in Newport Beach. Its white and light-brown feathers were caked with black crude. Cold, oily water had seeped through its down and onto its skin.

Ten days later, Sam Christie, a wildlife care specialist from the UC Davis Oiled Wildlife Care Network, lifted the bird — a ruddy duck — from a soft, blue box and placed it at the edge of Huntington Harbour. Healthy and cleaned of oil, it did as ducks do; it glided across the surface of the water, paddling its feet and bobbing its head. More…

Both Eared Grebes and Ruddy Ducks are regular wintering birds at Malibu Lagoon and elsewhere along the coast, freely associating with each other as they dive for fish in the deeper sections of the lagoon, especially near the Pacific Coast Highway bridge.

We have recorded Eared Grebes in every month except June, but 82% of the sighting are in Oct – Feb, when they are in their basic (plain) non-breeding plumage. The brightly colored adults in alternate plumage are mostly black and bronze, with bright golden bronze “ear” plumes, absent in winter. Unfortunately, they are mostly gone from the lagoon before this plumage appears, as are the Ruddy Ducks.

Ruddy Ducks are recorded in all months. However 98.2% of sightings are Nov-Apr, and 1.8% are May – Oct. We have no photos of either species in their brighter, breeding alternate plumage. In breeding the colorful males have bright blue bills. Both sexes have short, almost upright tails, and for this have long been known to hunters as “Stifftails.”

Ruddy Duck and Eared Grebe at Malibu Lagoon, wintering fellow divers
(Ray Juncosa 12/28/14)

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