Some confused penguin sightings in the Sackville area led to the rescue and release of a group of thick-billed murres earlier this month.

The black and white birds are related to the puffin and spend most of their lives at sea.

But heavy offshore winds last week blew five murres inland, said Pam Novak of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute.

"Probably some of these birds, as they were flying through the area, they got caught in these winds and got blown off course," Novak said in an interview on Shift.

"These birds are designed to live their life at sea, to dive and swim literally underneath the water after their prey. So when they land on solid ground it's very difficult for them to get back up and get on their way."

The murres landed in Sackville, Dieppe, Shediac, and Memramcook. Novak said staff at the institute knew what they were dealing with as soon as the first call came in.

"When we get a call that someone said, 'I think what I found is a penguin,' then we pretty much know what we're going to be picking up," Novak said.

One of the rescued murres was too weak and stressed to survive, Novak said.

The other four, also stressed from the ordeal of fighting winds, simply needed some food and relaxation.

"It was like being a taxi cab and little rest stop for them," said Novak. "I'm happy to provide that for them."

The surviving murres dined on smelt before the wildlife institute took them to open water and sent them on their way.

"It's best to return them as quick as possible because these are birds that don't like to be in any kind of captive state, they're much better off in open seas," said Novak.

"They needed a length of water to paddle their way through and then into the wind to give them that lift. When they were on the ground on solid land, I hate that saying, but they were sitting ducks when they grounded."