Around noon on Sunday, hours after a heavy storm battered the Pacific northwest, the Aquarium received a call from a local couple about a unique-looking, stranded bird in South Shore, the beach adjacent to South Beach State Park.
“We initially came across the bird while walking the beach, but we didn’t approach because we didn’t want to disturb it. Since we live nearby, we continued to watch it with our binoculars and saw that even as people walked by with their dogs, the bird was not moving at all. So that’s when we called the Aquarium,” said Kim Hancher. ”Of course, we had no clue what kind of bird it was. When we went back out to catch it, we realized how big of a wing span it had, making it much larger than we thought initially.”
Generally, the Aquarium requests that injured birds be brought to our facility due to time constraints. But in cases such as this, where the bird is large and potentially dangerous, staff will go to retrieve the animal if possible. Upon arrival at the beach, our aviculturists identified the large, brown bird as a rare juvenile brown booby.
Brown boobies are typically found in tropical or subtropical zones off the coast of Central America. In the past few decades, however, the brown boobies’ range has expanded northward. Just last fall, biologists discovered the first instance of these seabirds nesting as far north as California in Channel Islands National Park.
Still, occurrences of brown boobies on the Oregon coast are extremely rare, with less than twenty ever recorded. Aquarium staff hypothesize that the weekend storm contributed to the fatigued bird’s stranding on our coast, over 1,000 miles north of the Channel Islands in California.
Once aviculture staff determined that the rare bird did not sustain any significant injuries, they began fluid therapy to treat its weak and underweight condition. “The fluid treatment hydrates the bird and gradually provides calories, which allows the digestive system to resume normal functioning,” explained Curator of Birds, C.J. McCarty. “We just introduced whole fish to its diet on Tuesday to help the bird put on weight and gain strength.”
Once the booby is in a stable condition, the Aquarium will likely transfer the bird to International Bird Rescue (IBR) in San Pedro for final rehabilitation and release. “Since our coast is far outside of its normal range, we transfer it south to ensure its release in an appropriate environment based on its migratory cycle, food availability, and time of year,” said McCarty.
The expansion of the brown boobie’s range northward coincides with changes in oceanic conditions and prey availability associated with recent El Niño events. Despite the range expansion, brown booby populations are in decline due to the introduction of nonnative species to their island habitats, which reduces nesting success.
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.
The Aquarium is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information visit aquarium.org or call (541) 867-3474.