A local ring-billed gull can likely empathize with the oil-drenched birds rescued from the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of BP's huge spill. But this gull was rescued from a much smaller slick.
A restaurant's cooking oil was left out behind the establishment and attracted a bird who took a dunk into the oil. While the restaurant had their oil properly covered to deter wild animals, the bird snuck in when the top was temporarily removed. The gull was unable to get out on his own, and had to be scooped out by a restaurant employee. This is one of a handful of birds we receive each year who find themselves unable to get out of vats of cooking oil left behind restaurants.
Oil is quite damaging to a bird's feathers. The structure of a feather makes it waterproof, allowing the bird to fly even when he is drenched in rain or ocean water. Oil saturates feathers and clumps them up, ruining the structure needed for flight. The feathers must be cleaned of oil if the bird is to ever fly again and survive. Discarded oil, whether its cooking or motor oil, must be discarded properly and should always be left covered.
The VINS Wildlife Services' staff is washing this gull with warm water and Dawn dish soap every other day. Dawn is safe on wildlife and effectively removes oil from feathers after several washes. Soon, this gull will be oil-free and back to soaring the friendly skies -- we hope the same for his brethren battling oil down south.