A grebe, a bird that you'd normally see on a lake, sits on a parking lot. The grebe struggles and flaps, but cannot fly. At the same time, on the island of Kauai, a resident finds a Newell's Shearwater, another water bird, stranded on a tennis court. Seabirds (like this Pied-billed Grebe ) cannot take flight from land. They must first patter and splash across the surface of the water to build up enough speed to become airborne. If you find such a bird stranded on land, call a wildlife rehabilitator who knows how to handle the bird. Use the link below to find an organization near you.
When Birds Land in Parking Lots
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote!
[Call of the Pied-billed Grebe] One damp evening, you pull into a parking lot [Car engine, doors shutting] and there, on the asphalt, sits a Pied-billed Grebe, a water bird that you’d normally see on a lake or pond. The grebe struggles and flaps, but cannot fly. About the same time, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, a resident out for a walk finds a Newell’s Shearwater – another water bird – stranded on a tennis court.
What’s going on here? Well, seabirds like grebes and shearwaters cannot take flight from land. It has to do with their center of gravity and weight. Their feet are set far back on their bodies, and they have long wings. So they must first patter and splash across the surface of the water to build up enough speed to become airborne.
And what is the attraction of a parking lot or tennis court? Well, to a bird flying at night, they resemble bodies of water, especially if their surfaces are wet. Even more so if made to glisten by artificial light. Young birds on their first flights are especially prone to these mistakes. [Call of the Pied-billed Grebe]
Stranded seabirds will not survive without a helping hand. To find out how to reach your local bird rescue group, start at BirdNote.org.
Pied-billed Grebe song provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.A. Keller.
Ambient recordings by Kessler Productions
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org September 2016 / 2020 Narrator: Mary McCann
ID# 080106strandKPLU strand-01b-2010-09-15