Frozen Lake Erie is proving dangerous for some lakeshore birds.
Diving ducks can’t find open water to hunt for food or take off in flight from, said Taryn Leach, wildlife specialist at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center. And gulls have been getting stuck in the ice.
“The kind of weather we’re having right now directly impacts those diving ducks from getting their food and taking off to find food,” Leach said. “They get themselves stranded. They’re weak because they’re not able to get food.”
From the air, moisture on dark asphalt parking lots look like open water. So ducks may mistake the hard pavement for soft water they can land in and cut or bruise themselves.
Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, at Cleveland Metroparks’ Huntington Reservation near Lake Erie in Bay Village, has four such diving ducks they’re rehabilitating. During the deep freeze winter a few years ago, they had as many as 45.
Diving ducks are mergansers, long-tailed ducks, grebes and ruddy ducks that dive underwater for food. They’re different from dabbler ducks, like mallards, which have smaller feet and feed by tipping, rather than diving.
Diving ducks are migratory, so they are likely looking for any ponds with fountains, that keep them from freezing over.
“We can’t prevent it. But what we can do is help them,” said Leach, who recommends calling an animal rescue center if you find a stranded bird. “With the way the weather’s supposed to continue, we’re preparing to get even more in.”
Due to frigid temperatures and a freezing #LakeErie, diving ducks need our help this winter. Divers such as Long-tailed Ducks (pictured), Mergansers, Scaup, Canvasback, Redheads often confuse icy roads, bridges and parking lots for open water. pic.twitter.com/bmZAoA1uUv
— Lake Erie Nature & Science Center (@LENSC) January 3, 2018
Do not touch a stranded bird, and do not give it food or water, which could dangerously lower its temperature. Instead follow the directions the animal rescue gives you.
“This weather affects everything. The ice … affects animals’ ability to hunt and forage for food. We have raptors in for malnourishment.”
You can reach the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center at 440-871-2900.
“These poor birds are going to need lots of help over the next few days.”