Oiled birds rehab in Gulfport - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Oiled birds rehab in Gulfport

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

GULFORT, MS (WLOX) - In a sudsy mix of warm water and Dawn soap, a brown pelican, once covered in oil, receives a thorough washing. The Gulfport Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center off Cowan Lorraine Road is the site where oiled birds in Mississippi are receiving critical, life-saving care.

"Our commitment is to wash them one time and one time only. We move through a series of tubs using warm soapy water and Dawn dishwashing liquid. Once we've done that and meticulously made sure we've gotten all the oil off the feathers, we then move it to the rinse station. We're making sure that all the soap rinses off so those feathers become waterproof," said Dr. Heidi Stout, director of Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research.

After a good wash and rinse, the birds, depending on their size, dry in heating pans or under small lamps.

"After that, they move to an outdoor aviary, and they're given time in pools and in aviaries where they can fly around and exercise," said Dr. Stout.

The process, according to rehabilitation staff, can last about two weeks depending on the species and how badly it is hurt. Wildlife biologists say many of the birds they're finding include laughing and herring gulls, greaves and pelicans.

So far, the facility has seen close to 60 birds from rescue to rehabilitation. But, the birds are being monitored even after their release.

"Each bird is fitted with a permanent metal band. The metal band allows anyone who encounters that bird in the future....to read those band numbers and report it to the bird-banding lab," says Dr. Stout.

In addition, brown pelicans are being fitted with large color bands, so they are quickly identified as they return to their habitats. Some of the near shore species, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, can be moved within state to more inland areas. For the birds who can't return home, they're finding new homes in Texas and Florida.

Of the three rehabilitation centers in Gulfport, Pensacola, Florida, and Theodore, Alabama, 500 birds have been released. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with state and local partners in Mississippi to operate the center out of Gulfport. 

You can call 1-866-557-1401 to report an oiled bird.

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