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Warning: Arctic Loons Stranded Across Lehigh Valley

If you see an arctic loon stranded in your area, it may need to be taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center for treatment of its injuries.

Four Arctic Loons became stranded and injured when they landed on solid surfaces they thought were water across the Lehigh Valley in recent days.

Animal lovers are warned to watch out for the birds over the next two weeks.

The loons can't walk and may need human help if they crash land in our area during their migration from the Arctic Circle to the beaches of Virginia and Maryland.

Related story: Rare Pink-Footed Goose Seen in Lehigh Valley

Two of the birds 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.

It's a problem that may happen again, 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 Catasauqua, Miller said, probably trying to hit the nearby Lehigh 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.
Inga Eula February 09, 2013 at 09:10 PM
I saw a pair at lehigh parkway while walkng my dog. they were swimming in the water. There was also a ducking sitting in the water watching them pass by
R.D. Frable February 09, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Seriously, this is hardly the place to be warning about these birds. A lot of people without Internet access won't see this article, or won't believe it if it's told to them. You should have contacted, for example, Arlene Koch at the <i>Express-Times</i> sports department on 610.258.7171 or by emailing sports@express-times.com with Koch's name in the subject line.
Heidi February 09, 2013 at 10:23 PM
However, I am thankful they do post things like this here since not everyone does subscribe to the local papers nor spend their day searching through mcall.com or lehigh valley live. Thanks Hellertown Patch!
Mrs. Mangione February 10, 2013 at 01:30 AM
I second that! I don't have time to read through the newspaper, I only get to catch part of the evening news while making dinner, so I'm glad I saw it here because I wouldn't have known otherwise.
Karen El-Chaar February 10, 2013 at 02:57 AM
I appreciate the news Patch brings and I definitely would not have known this story without the Patch update. Thank-you.
Dale Susan Wallace February 10, 2013 at 05:24 PM
I too found out about this from a Patch article in my aol. Thank you Patch!
Drew Weber February 11, 2013 at 08:04 PM
At least check Wikipedia before posting! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-throated_Loon Red-throated and Arctic Loosna are very different species.
melissa February 11, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Haha I wouldn't believe it either if I heard it. Good point. Luckily that is why news sources like the patch are creating awareness and educating the public at the same time. I saw this b/c someone shared it on FB (OMG, yes I am one of the few people who has internet access ;)). -- and I followed the link to the Patch story. Good stuff, Patch. :)

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