Two Arctic Loons trying to migrate from the Arctic Circle to the beaches of Virginia and Maryland became stranded this week when they landed on wet asphalt in Lower Macungie Township.
Thinking the shiny surface was water and expecting a nice, soft landing and fish to eat, the first crash landed at the intersection of Willow and Sauerkraut lanes, and the second bird became stranded in the parking lot of Allen Distribution on Schoeneck Road.
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It's a problem that may happen again over the next two weeks, says Barbara Miller, a capture/transport permittee certified by the state Game Commission, as the birds try to make their way from the frozen waters of the North Pole.
The problem is they can't stand or walk. Their legs are made for swimming, she says. Arctic Loons, also know as Red Throated Loons, are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act. They are not, however, an endangered species.
Miller rushed from her Allentown home to Sauerkraut and Willow lanes around midnight Wednesday to collect the bird that was found by a motorist who, with the gentle assistance of Sgt. Travis Kocher of the Macungie Police Department and PSP Trooper Michael Schultz, moved the bird to the side of the road with a snow shovel.
When an Arctic Loon lands on the ground, it is stranded and becomes frantic, Miller explains, because it thinks if it paddles hard enough, it will reach water. However, when it senses a predator -- human or animal -- it becomes still and silent. Its coloring offers excellent protection because it blends into the black of asphalt and the white snow.
Miller took the bird to the Red Creek Wildlife Center in Schuylkill Haven, Schuylkill County, where it was examined and fed live minnows before it was declared healthy and "mad as hell" and released Thursday into Blue Marsh Lake so it could resume its migration.
The second incident occurred about 4 a.m. Wednesday, Miller said, when Scott Hersh found a loon in the parking lot of Allen Distribution on Schoeneck Road. He scooped it into a box to wait till Miller arrived, she said.
The third bird was found in the parking lot of America on Wheels in Allentown, she said, and could probably hear the Lehigh River close by. That one looked the worst because there was "blood everywhere," she said, but the injuries were surface wounds from the loon's feathers, similar to a human's scalp wound that produces a lot of blood from a non-life threatening injury. It, too, was treated and released.
The fourth wayward bird was found in a high traffic area just as Bridge Street becomes Race Street in Catasauqa, Miller said, probably trying to hit the canal for rest and food. That one was taken to the Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center in Saylorsburg because it was closer than the Red Creek facility.
If you find an Arctic Loon, Miller has very specific instructions.
Most important: Never allow the loon within striking distance of your face. The bird may try to peck at your eyes if it fears you are a predator.
- Throw a towel over the bird -- head and all -- and lift it into a box.
- The box needs to have a pillow or something soft like foam in the bottom because the breast will be injured after only a few minutes if the loon is kept on a hard surface.
- Close the box.
- Call Miller at 610-435-4729 and she will come and collect the loon, or take it to the nearest wildlife rehabilitation center yourself.