“A giant tropical bird – a type rarely, if ever, seen in the Bay Area – got stuck in the vortex of a hurricane-force Pacific storm this month and took a dizzying Wizard of Oz-like ride hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles off course.
That’s the theory of how it ended up in a tree in Healdsburg.
The gangly, feathered galoot with a hooked beak and wingspan topping 7 feet is recovering at a Bay Area animal rescue center after a couple of bird watchers spotted it in the tree and knew right away that it was alien to Northern California.
It was positively identified Tuesday as a male juvenile magnificent frigatebird, known scientifically as Fregata magnificens. The species is known to inhabit the tropical Atlantic, the Caribbean and Cape Verde Islands. Although frigatebirds breed along the Pacific coast as far north as Mexico, they are most at home in steaming hot equatorial regions like the Galapagos Islands.
“In our entire 37 years, we’ve never treated one in Northern California,” said Monte Merrick, a wildlife rehabilitator for the International Bird Rescue Research Center, in Cordelia. “There have been sightings, but those sightings are rare.”