How to Clean the Oil Off a Bird, In Case It Comes Up

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05/05/2010 5:10 PM |


We all weep many bitter tears whenever we see a news item about the seabird casualties of oil spills such as the one currently spreading across the Gulf of Mexico, coating an entire ecosystem in blackest hydrocarbons. Indeed, the pictures of oiled-slick birds, suffocating to death like that chick in that Bond movie, are among the most potent images of man’s capacity to throw nature profoundly out of balance.

But, Mr. or Ms. or Miss or Mrs. Bleeding Heart, would you know how to clean the oil off an unfortunate pelican, should one ever wash up at your feet?

You had better read this article, then. Short version:

1. Keep the bird warm and hydrated, feeding it frequently, to stabilize it (it’s had a tough time of things recently).

2. Bubble bath! Use warm water and a little bit of Dawn. Find a friend to hold the bird—gently—and scrub the feathers. Use toothbrush for the head, and a water pik for the eyes. Change the water frequently to keep it clean, otherwise what’s the point?

3. After lathering, rinse; then dry the bird off with a pet drier (do not use a hair dryer, the bird will get split ends).

4. Let the bird rehab in your pool for a while. If he seems to be taking a suspiciously long time to fully recover, and you suspect he might be enjoying the pool a little too much, back off—it’s not because he’s mooching off your hospitality, he’s just been through a lot lately.

(The article has no advice for how to clean an oil-coated Daniel Day-Lewis, but a little bit of holy water usually does the trick.)