Oil had subdued the Laughing Gull.
Normally a loud species known for its raucous call, this particular bird was quiet as workers began cleaning it.
Wrapped in a white bath towel, the gray-and-white bird with the black head was taken from a plywood pen big enough to hold a German Shepherd and carried a few hundred feet away to be doused with diluted Dawn dishwashing liquid.
Only about 25 birds have come through the doors at the Mississippi Wildlife Response Center since it opened in Gulfport in early May. The center is operated by the nonprofit Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research from Delaware, in conjunction with the International Bird Rescue Research Center. Tri-State is contracted by BP, but is permitted for wildlife rehabilitation by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Executive Director Heidi Stout expects more birds to be brought in as oil continues to invade the Mississippi Sound and roll ashore.
So far they’ve seen Laughing Gulls, Least Terns, Brown Pelicans and Northern Gannets. Sea turtles and marine mammals go directly to the nearby Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, she said.
As each bird comes in it’s examined to document the degree of oiling, and given basic bloodwork. Staff members work to rehydrate the birds.
The birds must be stabilized, which can take three or four days before the oil can be removed, she said.
Oscillating desk fans attached to poles near the ceiling keep air circulating. The building is cooled to a bird-friendly temperature, which is a tad warmer than the human workers would choose.