Saturday, December 18, 2010

Keep watch for Dovekies ... they may need your help!

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Little Auk (dovkie) 2047.1Image by Yukon White Light via Flickr

Small seabirds were blown ashore by heavy winds

A plea for public assistance in rescuing some of the dovekies - who were blown ashore in New Brunswick by stiff winds a few weeks ago - proved to be successful.

Well-known naturalist Dr. Mary Majka of Mary's Point, said in her earlier plea for help that the small birds were blown inland by "terrific gusting winds" on the Bay of Fundy on the night of Dec. 5 and morning of Dec. 6.

Majka said the dovekie is a seabird that lives on saltwater and is rarely seen on land. She said the birds were not injured or starving, but urgently needed to be released into any large body of water - of course, preferably saltwater.

The dovekies look like very small penguins. Although not quite the size of a robin, she said they are black on top and "white-ish" on the belly. The problem, however, is that dovekies, like many other pelagic (sea-dwelling) birds, cannot take off from the ground, said the naturalist. She said they have to be on water to take flight.

Unable to take flight from the ground, she said they would literally be "hopping around."

Majka urged anyone finding one to pick it up and put it in a small box or even a cap, as they are not very big, and then, take them to the seashore or river and dump them into the water. If you cannot get them to a saltwater source, Majka said any clear water lake or large pond will do. She said they will take off from there and find their way to saltwater.

Prior to asking for public help, she was able to rescue one of the wind-blown dovekies herself.

And three other people contacted her to say they rescued three of the small birds and got them back into the water, said Majka. They were found in three separate locations - Alma (where the rescuer deposited the bird into the Alma River), Hopewell Hill and Dorchester.

Majka said yesterday that the plea for public assistance paid off, with three more of the dovekies being rescued and put back in the water. She said all three, which were separate sightings, occurred in the Campbellton-Dalhousie area.

The response showed that people wanted to help but did not know how, prior to her plea, said the naturalist.

The normal inclination, said Majka, is to take the small bird inside and to feed it.

But in the case of the dovekies, they can only eat marine organisms, miniature shrimp and tiny sea life, she said. And the change to warmer indoor temperatures would not be good for them, either, she added.

Since it is not known how many of the small birds were blown ashore, Majka said there is a chance they may have rescued most of them. But along with saving at least three more of the dovekies, the plea for public help will also pay off if any of these seabirds get washed ashore some time in the future, said the naturalist.

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