The loading area behind a Seattle grocery store is not exactly an ideal habitat for a Red-necked Grebe. In fact, it's downright awful, but that is exactly where one such grebe found himself on April 14.
Grebes, loons and many other species that winter in Puget Sound and along the outer coast are currently on the move. They are flying inland, toward the freshwater lakes and rivers on which they will breed. But this is not a non-stop flight. The birds rest and feed on bodies of water they encounter en route. Unfortunately, sometimes what they perceive from the air as a safe stopover point turns out to be anything but.
From the air, the shiny surface of wet pavement looks a lot like the surface of a lake. Some birds only find out that it is not what it appears to be when they try to land on it. Since loons and grebes require a running start on the water's surface to get airborne, they are effectively stranded once they hit the pavement. They also often suffer injuries during the unexpectedly hard landing. Fortunately, the grebe that was found in the grocery store loading area did not suffer any serious injuries when he landed. He was very feisty upon arrival at PAWS.
Although the bird had no injuries, he did soil his feathers as he was struggling around on the ground. For a bird that spends all of its time in the water, dirty feathers pose a real challenge. Dirt, grit and oils compromise the water repellency of feathers, allowing the bird to become waterlogged and possibly hypothermic. The Red-necked Grebe required a quick wash while he was in our care to restore his feathers to pristine condition.
After regaining his waterproofing and dining on an all-he-could eat fish buffet for a few days, the grebe was released on April 19. Hopefully, he will complete the rest of his migration without incident.