Nova Scotia

Wildlife centre takes in seabirds with head trauma, broken bones after storm

It wasn't just trees and power lines that got blown around in Nova Scotia's storm. Some seabirds that usually only come ashore to mate were blown kilometres inland and needed help getting back.

Hope for Wildlife treating dozens of seabirds blown around by hurricane-force winds

Several seagulls were brought into Hope for Wildlife with broken legs and wings after a powerful storm sent them flying into buildings, poles and cars. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

A wildlife refuge on Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore is busy treating more than 60 seabirds displaced and injured during last week's storm.

"They got picked up in those huge winds, got blown around and out of control," said Hope Swinimer, the founder of Hope for Wildlife in Seaforth, N.S. "If you were out and the winds almost blew you around, you can imagine what it would do to a bird."

Staff scrambled to identify some of the breeds, including this sea duck with head trauma. The species is rarely seen on shore. The centre has only treated this species once in the last two decades. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Swinimer said many of the seabirds, including sea ducks, dovekies, loons and gulls, were exhausted. Others came in with injuries, including a sea duck with head trauma and several seagulls that had broken legs and wings.

"That would either be from a collision with a pole, a building or vehicle," she said.

By the peak of the storm, the centre had received 400 calls and people lined up outside with birds in boxes, buckets and blankets.

Swinimer said while most mammals are hibernating right now and would have been protected from the storm, seabirds were at the mercy of the weather.

Hope Swinimer cares for an injured sea duck. (Marina von Stackelberg)

The centre's veterinarian, Krystal Woo, said she treated dozens of confused little black and white birds called dovekies that had been blown kilometres inland. The species, which only comes near land to nest, is only able to take flight from water.

"A lot of them are unable to walk on land, and therefore they can't get back into the air in order to fly back to where they came from," Woo said.

While they couldn't save all of them, the centre was able to rehabilitate and release 70 per cent of the birds that were brought in.

Meanwhile, Swinimer says she expects to see more birds coming into the centre over the next several days.

"I just find it amazing and heartwarming that people care so much that they find a tiny bird they know is in distress...and go through that effort of scooping it up and bringing it in to us," she said.

Small black and white birds called dovekies are built to take off from water, not land. When dozens of the birds were blown inland during Nova Scotia's storm, they weren't able to get back into the air. (Provided)


Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter at CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with earlier stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at or on social media @CBCMarina.