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February 5, 2008

San Pedro, CA

Up, Up and Away

Frigatebird soars to freedom off Catalina Island and hopefully home

Frigatebird flies free

"Freedom" the wayward Frigatebird, found in a tree in Healdsburg after bad storms walloped Northern California, flies free on Catalina Island. The bird was rehabilitated for a month at IBRRC's Cordelia bird center. (Photo: Marie Travers/IBRRC)

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The young Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) that caused a sensation among Northern California birders was successfully released on Catalina Island on Monday, February 4, by Marie Travers who helped rehabilitate the bird at International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) headquarters in Cordelia, California. Travers, Assistant Rehabilitation Manager, said the release, “Could not have gone better, “a relief to everyone who helped bring the wayward young bird back from its near-death experience.

Video of Frigatebird release

Freedom, named by his rescuers, was very “ready for take-off” and he achieved his own freedom quickly, jumping from the carrier, spreading his seven foot wingspan and catching the wind. “He soared above us a long time, living up to his name Magnificent Frigatebird, and it was an amazing sight to behold,” said Travers who had never seen the species in the wild. “I hope he is headed south and back to warm tropical winds and lots of fish.”

The bird was spotted in a tree in Healdsburg, CA on January 5th, 2008 by local residents, Dana and John Naber, who didn’t know immediately what kind of bird it was, just that it wasn’t the Osprey they usually saw perched there. After consulting their bird ID books, they came to the conclusion it was a Frigatebird, usually only found in warm, tropical areas. Sensing the bird may have been blown off course by recent severe storms, and that it was in trouble, they called their local wildlife rescue center where they initially encountered disbelief.

After two days, help from several agencies and a window washer with a 40 foot ladder, the bird whose time was defiantly running out, was captured and taken to Bird Rescue Center in Santa Rosa where it was hydrated before being rushed to IBRRC which specializes in the rehabilitation of waterfowl and aquatic birds. The center was filled with other storm victims, but a Magnificent Frigatebird was a first for the center.

frigatebird photo

Upon intake, the wayward Frigatebird was listed in critical condition. (Photo: Marie Travers/IBRRC)

Upon intake, the bird was determined to be in critical condition with a temperature and body weight far below normal. Many times birds so close to starvation don’t make it. This frigate had a strong will to survive and with expert, supportive care began to gain weight and strength. After almost a month at the center, Freedom began giving clues he was ready to go.

Jay Holcomb, director of IBRRC hoped the media, who had followed the bird’s rescue and progress, could document the release, but that turned out to not be possible. “Of utmost importance was giving this bird the best opportunity to get back into its intended environment without the immediate challenge of fighting a storm or strong winds. The warmer climate of Southern California and less risk of bad weather played heavily in our decision to release the bird from the cliffs on the windward side of Catalina Island.”

Read Jay Holcomb's Blog entry on the Frigatebird

It will remain a mystery how and why this bird ended up so far from his home but one thing is certain, his visit will remain a thrilling event for the lucky birders who got to meet him.

For more about the Frigatebird, photos, media stories and a message from Director Jay Holcomb, please visit IBRRC’s website at http://www.ibrrc.org/pr_01_07_2008.html.

International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) just celebrated its 37th year helping birds around the world survive the effects of oil spills and other human caused problems. IBRRC manages two wildlife rehabilitation centers in California specializing in the rehabilitation of waterfowl and aquatic birds. It is a non-profit organization made possible by donations and volunteers. More information and directions to the centers can be found at http://www.ibrrc.org/. Donations to help pay for the cost of caring for the birds may be sent to IBRRC, 4369 Cordelia Road, Cordelia, CA  94534 or on through the donation page on the website.

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