A tropical masked booby (Sula dactylatra), that was picked up in Newport is now settling into a warmer locale. The juvenile bird is the second of its species ever reported north of Mendocino County, California. The booby was underweight, weighing 1,405 grams, when it arrived at the Oregon Coast Aquarium for rehabilitation on September 11.
Due to the continued threat of avian influenza, Aquarium staff followed isolation quarantine procedures, which required any person that worked with the booby to avoid Aquarium’s resident birds that day. State veterinarians worked quickly to obtain the necessary samples for testing, and when blood test results for the disease came back negative, they transitioned to regular quarantine protocols that provided the bird its own private condominium.
Despite the logistical challenges, the Aquarium’s aviculturists tended their surprise patient with enthusiasm. “Working with a booby was a new experience for our staff, and we quickly learned they are a favorite of many staff who asked about its progress every day,” said CJ McCarty, Curator of Birds for the Aquarium. Aviculturists introduced nutrition to the booby gradually, starting with fluids, then a fishy shake and finally whole fish to ensure the bird was adequately hydrated to successfully digest food.
Under the care of McCarty and her team, the bird soon started to pack on the grams and was strong enough to travel. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service arranged for a free flight for the booby courtesy of Alaska Air Cargo.
“Our employees take great pride in treating these animals with the utmost care. We were thrilled to be able to help this masked booby make her way to the rehabilitation center, and hopefully, soon back in the wild in her traditional habitat,” said Bobbie Egan, Alaska Air Cargo spokesperson.
The booby arrived at International Bird Rescue (IBR) in San Pedro, California late September 30, and is reportedly doing well. IBR’s animal care team will ensure it is stable before releasing it back into the wild. Based on its body condition, they anticipate the booby may take a boat ride out to an open sea release location in the near future.
The typical range of masked boobies is the warm waters of the Caribbean, across the Pacific Ocean to Australia and Indonesia.
The booby might have made its way home on its own, had it not sustained damage to its flight feathers when a well-meaning person grabbed it off a dock in an attempt to help it.
People that find a wild animal they believe to be distressed should not approach or touch the animal. When in doubt, contact Oregon State Police at 800-452-7888, fish and wildlife officials, or qualified wildlife rehabilitators who can provide instructions on how to catch and transport the animal safely if they feel it is appropriate.
Members of the public are encouraged to watch for rare birds in the coming months. The ocean’s projected warm, nutrient-poor conditions associated with El Niño and winter storms may increase the number of injured birds appearing on the Oregon Coast.
Masked boobies are the largest members of the booby family, with a wingspan that exceeds five feet. The word “booby” is derived from the Spanish word “bobo,” which means “stupid fellow.” The name was likely inspired by boobies’ clumsy movement on land, which is typical of seabirds, and their lack of fear of humans.
information and photos provided by Oregon Coast Aquarium