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Rupert puts off his swan song again

August 11, 2000

Alex Coolman

Rupert the black swan is doing well after he nearly died earlier this

week from another run-in with floating diesel fuel.

He is recovering at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in

Huntington Beach, where he has been treated since Tuesday. The harbor

bird's brush with death came less than three months after he was injured

in a similar incident in Newport Harbor.

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The swan, known to many harbor-area residents for his fearlessness

while cruising around local waters, was plucked from the harbor near the

Fun Zone late Tuesday morning looking like he was not long for this

world.

"Our observation was that Rupert was definitely dying when we found

him," said Sgt. Gary Smith of the Orange County Sheriff's Department

Harbor Patrol.

The bird was covered with fuel, which Smith said did not appear to

have originated from a major spill.

Once at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, he was washed off and

fed a liquid charcoal solution to soak up some of the fuel he had

ingested.

Swimming through fuel is dangerous for birds, said center director

Gary Gorman, because the petroleum can burn their skin and digestive

systems, and destroy the waterproofing on their feathers.

"The ingestion of the [petroleum] product can be fatal," Gorman noted.

"Hopefully, we got him quick enough to forestall that."

The swan is listed in fair condition and may recuperate in about a

week, Gorman said.

Only a few weeks ago, the Huntington Beach center nearly closed

because of funding difficulties. A swell of donations kept the facility

open, which has turned out to be fortunate for Rupert the swan.

This is the second time in recent months that Newport's celebrity bird

has had the bad fortune of swimming into fouled waters.

At the end of May, a one-gallon diesel spill injured Rupert and

several other birds. In April, more spills sent familiar birds --

including the swan known as Sir Swany, but not Rupert -- to the

Huntington Beach care facility.

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