Firefighters rescue tangled fowl

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Sometimes, it takes a village to save one seabird’s life.

Such was the case Tuesday morning in Boerum Hill.

Local residents, and ultimately, the New York City Fire Department, managed to extract a cormorant tangled by fishing line in the branches of a tree.

The distressed bird was first spotted on Bergen Street between Nevins and Bond Streets, on Monday evening.

Neighbors assumed it would eventually free itself, but Tuesday morning, the previous night’s curiosity quickly turned to grave concern.

“The bird was still there,” said Irene Van Slyke, who lives on the block.

“It was a horrible sight to see the bird stuck there, and we though we can’t just stand by and watch it die,” she said.

Van Slyke quickly called Ludger Balan, the executive director of the not-for-profit Urban Divers Estuary Conservancy, who is also a trained bird handler.

Calls to an array of groups, including the ASPCA and the city’s Center for Animal Care and Control generated no response, Balan said.

Balan got tired of waiting. “The way that bird was hanging there, I knew she needed help right away.”

“Finally, I climbed up the tree and tried to break the branch,” he continued.

But the web-footed bird was too far away.

More time passed. Construction workers got involved, offering a ladder.

It was too short.

Then, a brainstorm—New York’s Bravest. “They came right away,” Balan said. “They were very congenial.”

The bird was quickly freed, stabilized, and brought to a Manhattan animal hospital with a wildlife wing.

Cormorants survive on a steady diet of fish, which could explain the fish hook lodged in the bird’s stomach, revealed by X-rays taken at the hospital.

The hook will either be freed by surgery or non-surgical manipulation.

Balan said he isn’t even thinking about the hospital bill, at least not yet. “The most important thing is to get her back to health and release her to the wild,” he said.

Cormorants are not rare for this area, Balan said, noting a “pretty sizable colony” by the waterfront in Sunset Park. The bird’s are also spotted near the Gowanus Canal.

Van Slyke said that throughout the morning, the crowd steadily grew, particularly when Balan was up in the branches to try and jostle the bird loose.

“When people start climbing trees in New York City, people start looking,” Van Slyke said.

Updated 3:43 pm, October 19, 2011
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