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Despite the national fanfare and the dozens of photographers jockeying to catch a glimpse of him, he doesn't even have a name.

To his handlers, he's just a northern gannet, a young bird about a year old who on Friday earned a dubious distinction: the first oil-covered animal recovered from the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

Massive oil slicks are starting to wasp up against the American Gulf Coast, threatening birds, dolphins, sea turtles and the fishing stocks that many in these southern communities rely on for income.

But as of Sunday morning, only the gannet - his white feathers covered in black crude - had been found, rescued by anglers off the Louisiana coast who extended a gaff, or pole, to him.

"He kind of jumped onto the gaff, and they were able to haul him in," said Erica Miller, a veterinarian with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, which has set up a rescue station in Fort Jackson to handle as many as a few hundred birds, and give the gannet some company.

On Saturday, media packed the rescue site, clamouring for a shot of its lone patient. They got about 15 seconds with the gannet, which was carried out wrapped in a blanket, fed for a moment, wrapped back in its blanket and taken from prying eyes.

Officials described the cleaning process when a bird is brought in.

First, they give the bird a "full physical," said Rebecca Dunne, also of Tri-State. This includes weighing it and doing blood work. Then, they give it some water and Pepto-Bismol, administered via a stomach tube to coat the stomach and minimize irritation from oil damage, before letting it rest. At that point, "it has had a really stressful day, being handled in the capture and the admit [to hospital]" she said.

After between 12 and 24 hours, the bird is ready to be cleaned. They'll pluck a contour feather, or one not essential for flight, so as to test the type of oil. Once they figure out what they're dealing with, they know how to clean it.

Typically, with crude, the cleaning process is straightforward - wash it with Dawn dish soap, just like in the company's television advertisements.

Once the bird is recovering, they feed it a children's rehydration solution. They try only to wash the bird once so as to minimize the trauma. The gannet's cleaning took 36 minutes, about average.

After about 10 days, a bird is ready to be released.

Each expert stressed that locals should not pick up a bird that they find themselves. It could further damage the bird, which may panic and injure the human.

As high winds were thought to be pushing the oil closer to the Louisiana shore on Sunday and the birds that live here, the would-be rescuers waited in their warehouse in Fort Jackson, ready to admit as many as a few hundred new patients.

"I can't even predict how this space is going to change," Ms. Miller said.