Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rescuing gulls: Seeing the future?

My last post revolved around the non-penguin birds that were housed at SANCCOB. As I mentioned before, SANCCOB does more than help penguins. They are committed to rehabilitating all seabirds that can be found in South Africa and have seen a diverse number of species in 2011. Well, who knew that I would be getting up close to some of those birds today!

Hartlaub's gulls. The one on the right is being rehabilitated.

I spent my second Monday working in Pen 1 and the Aviary. Unlike penguins, there are lots of seabirds that can fly! These birds receive special accommodations that allow them to stretch their wings but not fly away until they are ready. My volunteer mentor Hannah and I had the pleasure of taking care of a couple of Hartlaub’s gulls and three Kelp gulls. Both species can be found in the Cape Town area and have been rehabilitated by SANCCOB before.

Pen 1. You can see a bird in the bottom left corner.

The Hartlaub’s gulls, which reside in Pen 1, were pretty small but quick, which proved to be challenging when we had to catch one to give it medication throughout the day. Though they were skittish when we were in the pen with them, they were more than happy to settle down and eat a whole dish of chopped fish.

Chopped fish. Pretty self-explanatory

In the larger aviary, 3 Kelp gulls were recovering. The area was a little bit more spacious than Pen 1, letting this larger species have a bit more room. In addition to a swimming pool, the aviary has a partition about 4 feet off the ground. The staff can start to assess if the bird is feeling better by whether or not the birds can fly off the ground up to the partition. If they can do that, they are close to release! I’m pleased to report the two larger Kelp gulls were happy to fly out of our way while cleaning. Could release be around the corner? Time will tell.

Kelp gulls. Can you tell which one is a juvenile? A hint...it's the one on the left...

Due to their larger size, the food of choice for the Kelp Gulls is a bit greater in scale. A menu item that is quite popular throughout SANCCOB is known as “fish tails”. The heads of the fish are removed (they are hard to eat and digest for some recovering birds), the remaining tails are sprinkled with vitamin powder and a saline solution and arranged delicately on a platter. Quite the spread!


...and after. Lunch time!

So yet another day of learning for me at SANCCOB. It was great to work with a couple of different species and to see how SANCCOB spreads its wings to help seabirds in addition to penguins. Who knows what the future will hold for these birds but for now they are in great hands!

Learn more about the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds, or SANCCOB and their Chick Bolstering Project.

Follow the adventures of Jo's co-worker, Paul! Aquarium penguin biologist Paul Leonard is also in South Africa to study and care for African penguins in their native hemisphere! Read about his experience on the Penguin Blog

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes we forget that gulls are just as important and beautiful as any other bird. Nice blog, Jo!