When winter storms pushed a female brown booby (Sula leucogaster) far north of its tropical range into the waters off the central Oregon coast, aviculture staff at the Aquarium rushed to rescue the bird on February 4 and bring it in for rehabilitation.
After a ten-day recuperation at the Aquarium, the bird was flown to International Bird Rescue (IBR) in San Pedro, California on February 14. From there, the IBR animal care team will ensure it is stable before releasing it back into the wild.
Brown boobies have a wide distribution, occurring in tropical oceans around the world. They breed off both coasts of Mexico, but typically make their way into the U.S. as vagrants, blown off course during storms. They’ve been recorded in Oregon less than twenty times.
Because of the bird’s rarity, aviculture staff took the unusual step of collecting the bird themselves, rather than asking the individual who reported the bird to bring it in.
“Due to time constraints, aviculture staff at the Aquarium won’t normally do ‘bird calls’ like that, but this bird warranted that extra step,” said aviculturist Charlee Beck, who helped pick up the bird from a residence near Depoe Bay. “The weather that day was awful, and we wanted to ensure that this bird received the timeliest care possible.”
Despite being somewhat out of its element, the booby appeared to be in relatively good condition. Weighing 1,037 grams upon arrival at the Aquarium, the bird was slightly underweight for its species, but had no major injuries.
“When our facility received a masked booby in September 2015, that was the first experience many of us have had with a booby species,” said CJ McCarty, Curator of Birds for the Aquarium. “We’ve learned they are a favorite of many staff who asked about its progress every day.”
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 quickly put on weight and was strong enough to travel. The Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Astoria 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 brown booby make her way to the rehabilitation center, and hopefully, soon back in the wild in her traditional habitat,” said Jason Berry, Managing Director of Alaska Air Cargo.
Brown boobies are large, colony-nesting seabirds with a wingspan that can exceed 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.
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 proceed and get the animal to safety if they feel it is appropriate.
Information and photos provided by Oregon Coast Aquarium