Rare tropical seabird found in Wellfleet
EASTHAM – Wild Care staff is working to save a rare tropical seabird found Tuesday at LeCount Hollow Beach in Wellfleet, after it was apparently blown ashore by Tropical Storm Jose, according to a statement from the wildlife rehabilitation hospital.
Wild Care received a call about what was originally believed to be an injured gannet at the oceanside beach but it turned out to be the first masked booby to ever touch down on Massachusetts soil, officials said.
“Much to our surprise, the bird was not a gannet, but instead was a species of booby (a tropical relative of the Northern Gannet),” Stephanie Ellis, Wild Care’s executive director, said in the statement. “The bird is very thin, weak and is experiencing respiratory discomfort likely due to a fungal infection. The bird’s condition is grave, but we are providing supportive care and keeping it comfortable at this time.”
Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary Science Coordinator Mark Faherty confirmed the bird was a masked booby, which has only been recorded near Massachusetts once before, and that was by a boat charter captain at the continental shelf, 100 miles south of Nantucket in 2015, Faherty said.
“Never has one been on Massachusetts’ soil,” he said. “This is a bird that would be hard to see in the Florida Keys.”
The species breeds throughout the world’s tropical oceans and islands, most commonly being seen along the Gulf of Mexico, according to the statement from Wild Care.
While there have been breeding attempts on Dry Tortugas in Florida and in Hawaii, it is not commonly seen in North America, the statement says.
Brown boobies have been seen more frequently in northern waters, although they are normally found no farther north than southern Florida, Faherty said.
Wild Care asks the public to refrain from calling about the bird or trying to drop in to see it.
“Wild Care is not open to the public, and stabilization of this bird is critical at this time,” Ellis said.
Faherty said he saw the bird Tuesday evening and it was showing spunk.
Other birds also were blown inland by Jose and the center urges anyone who finds a bird in distress to call its hotline at 508-240-2255.
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Wild Care has a state-of-the-art seabird therapy pool, which allows seabirds and waterfowl to exercise on running water. This will help our bird friends recover more quickly so they can get back to their watery habitats!