Published: Jul 08, 2010 8:41 PM EDT
Updated: Jul 08, 2010 5:41 PM EDT

LAKE TALQUIN, Fla - Three pied-billed grebes, which were rehabilitated and survived impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, were released on Lake Talquin near Tallahassee on Thursday. The birds were given quite a distinguished send off into the wild with Gov. Charlie Crist. All three birds immediately took to the waters of Lake Talquin.

"It's gratifying to play a small role in getting these birds back into the wild where they belong," Crist said. "It's a special thing to realize how important wildlife is, how beautiful our state is and the importance of protecting wildlife, beaches and businesses."

Dr. Heidi Stout, executive director of Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research brought three oiled grebes to Lake Talquin. The birds were rescued from beaches on Perdido Key, Miramar and Gulf Breeze and then successfully rehabilitated by Tri-State. Tri-State and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have been coordinating all recovery and rehabilitation efforts for wildlife impacted by the oil spill in Florida with assistance and support from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). James Burrett, manager of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, represented the USFWS and also assisted in releasing the birds. Nick Wiley, executive director of the FWC, also was on hand to assist with the release.

"It's definitely a team effort," Wiley said. "The scientists strategically found the best release area so the birds have the best chance for survival."

Stout said she was confident the grebes would stay on Lake Talquin and not attempt to return to the sites where they had been rescued, covered in oil.

"The state and federal agencies involved in this project are reasonably assured the birds won't go back to the oiled areas," Stout said. "This is a beautiful location and a perfect spot for them to thrive."

Lake Talquin was chosen for its marshy shores and large body of fresh water, which will provide plenty of insects and fish for the birds to eat. Pied-billed grebes are year round Florida residents and usually nest in fresh water.