Guillemot Rehabilitation

Thanks to Kevin Rylands of the RPSB for passing this on to us. A very interesting tale which surely puts to bed any doubts about whether the rehabiliation of oiled/injured seabirds is worthwhile…

No doubt several rehabilitators will have had Ringing Recoveries for auks that have met their fate during the very severe storms which lashed Spain, France and the west of the UK during the past winter.  I am informed by the RSPB that over 30,000 auks perished in this violent weather.

Two of our Guillemots were caught up in this disaster, and whilst, under normal circumstances I would not bring this to anyones attention, I do feel that one of the recoveries in particular warrants a place in our Rehabilitation Case Histories. 

This particular Guillemot was found at Jard-sur-Mer, France on the 8th February, 2014, Freshly dead – reason ‘Violent Weather’.   Duration of time between release and finding was 4996 days. 

We released this bird on the 5th of June 2000 after almost 6 months in care.   It had been admitted to our centre on the 30th of December 1999 heavily contaminated with oil AND injured, necessitating an operation on its wing.   Its ‘recorded weight’ at time of release was 715g. 

It had been weighed on two previous occasions prior to release – on the 6th of March it weighed 700g and when weighed again on the 2nd May weighed 685g.      

The point I should like to make is that some rehabilitators might consider that this bird had all the hall marks of one that might not survive, however, not only did it survive a) heavy oiling, b) an operation, c) a longer than normal time in care and d) being only 715g at time of release, it went on to have another (almost) 14 years of life.  In my opinion it deserves a place in the file of case studies for future reference. 

Incidentally the other Ringing Recovery was for a guillemot which we had released on the 9th of March 1999, it was found almost 15 years (5465 days) later at Getaria, Spain.  It is recorded as freshly dead on shore due to the storms. It’s ‘recorded weight’ at time of release was 825g.  As far as our records are concerned it did not have any notable problems other than being a victim of oil pollution.  However, it too is testament to the fact that oiled auks do survive rehabilitation.

Jean Bradford MBE

South Devon Seabird Trust

Please take a look at the South Devon Seabird Trust’s website: