‘Downed’ birds reported in Fairfax County after frigid weather in D.C. area

January 15

Some members of a family of water birds are reportedly experiencing an inconvenient layover in Northern Virginia, most likely knocked off course by last week’s cold snap.

Usually bound for the Gulf and Pacific coasts this time of year, the eared grebe has been turning up on the ground across Northern Virginia, prompting an alert of “downed” birds, according to the Fairfax County police, which runs animal control services in the county.

At least five of the birds were found after the frigid weather last week, said Lucy Caldwell, a Fairfax police spokeswoman. Police think the bitter cold, which reached single digits Jan. 7 in the District, interrupted the birds’ migratory flight.

Caldwell described eared grebes as the size of a small penguin. Police said they have webbed feet and normally fly and swim.

The birds are not used to walking and thus look like they are hurt and limping when they are not in the water or air, according to police. Caldwell said the birds that have been discovered so far have not had any injuries to her knowledge.


Eared Grebe (Fairfax County Police Department)

The birds have been reported as feisty and can bite, Caldwell said. She also advised residents against picking them up or feeding them.

“People’s perception is they can walk when actually they don’t walk,” Caldwell said.

Wildlife rescue officials have started the process of relocating the birds, she said.

Police are asking anyone who spots one of the birds to call an animal control officer at 703-691-4131.

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