This Herring Gull was admitted to our hospital by Yarmouth Division of Natural Resources after he was recovered behind a local restaurant covered in frialator oil! When he arrived he was weak and was having trouble breathing from ingesting some of the oil. Once he was stable, our vet team started our oiled-bird protocol to safely remove the oils and restore feather quality.

Believe it or not, this is the same process we follow when washing birds that have been affected by petroleum oil spills.  The video above shows how we perform a “feather test” on each patient to determine the correct concentrations of washing solution.  Each patients gets washed in 5 tubs, each with specific soap concentrations. The goal is to strip the foreign oil off the feathers without damaging them, which will allow the bird to redistribute its natural oils and restore the water-proofing.

Each wash can take over an hour, and each patient may require multiple washes. With petroleum based spills, staff must wear hazmat suits and PPE to protect themselves from the oil as well, which can get incredibly hot and uncomfortable. We must then catch all of the effuse in 50 gallon drums and send it out for proper disposal. It is an incredibly time and resource intensive process for the staff, and can be very stressful for each patient. However, once you see these birds make it back out to the wild, it makes it all worth it!

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