It’s likely the birds headed south to escape harsher weather conditions in the Upper Peninsula, he said.
Grebes, mergansers and several species of duck have legs placed so far back on their bodies that they can only take off from water, not solid surfaces, Keen said. As a result, waterfowl that mistake shiny, icy roads for open water could face possible starvation without assistance.
The birds are traumatized and aren’t applying their natural water-repellent oils to their feathers, Good said. Because they can’t move to attain food, they become dehydrated in addition to being hypothermic and starving.
Most waterfowl in the state should be safe from dangerous roadways because they fly south, said Kristin Schrader, spokeswoman for Ducks Unlimited. But some that decided to stay after finding open water where they could eat earlier in the year might now be in trouble.
“They’re economical with their calories,” Schrader said. “The ones that stayed didn’t make the best decision.”
The especially harsh winter has put all wildlife at risk, Schrader said, adding that many birds that could have survived Michigan’s winter in previous years are now at higher risk of death whether they get stranded on roadways or not.
If ice cover on the Great Lakes and inland bodies of water continues to grow, several experts said fatalities and incidences of stranded waterfowl could increase.
Would-be rescuers should carefully approach the animal to see if it can fly away, Good said. A bird thrashing on land could also be stranded.
If the bird is stranded, don’t try to rescue it but call a licensed rehabilitator through the county listings on the Department of Natural Resources website at www.michigandnr.com/dlr, Good said.
If people believe a bird needs to be immediately removed from the roadway, Maynard suggested wrapping it in a jacket and carrying it firmly but not too hard.