Rare oriole's return to West Coast delayed by red tape

Though the sanctuary has secured a no-cost ride for a rare Bullock's oriole that turned up in this area in late 2015, the bird remains stuck here while the necesssary permits are approved.

Special permits required before Bullock's oriole can return to B.C.

The sighting of this Bullock's oriole in 2015 drew hundreds of birdwatchers to Pakenham, Ont. (Stu Mills/CBC)

A wayward bird whose 2015 sighting in the Ottawa area made headlines now appears to be caught in a net of red tape.

The extremely rare appearance of a Bullock's oriole drew hundreds of birders to Pakenham, Ont., eager to cross the little bird off their list.

But in January 2016 the oriole, in danger of freezing to death, needed to be rescued. It was taken to the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre, where it's been recuperating ever since.

Last month the centre put out the call for a volunteer to help return it to its normal range on the West Coast — and while there have been many offers to deliver the bird home, government regulations are currently keeping the oriole grounded in eastern Ontario.

More than 600 people have offered to either help with the bird, visited her, or mentioned her in donations to the sanctuary since she arrived, said the centre's Patty McLaughlin.

To McLaughlin's knowledge, that's the most interest any single avian visitor to the sanctuary has ever generated.

"She's a celebrity and she doesn't even know it," she said.

Air Canada covering costs

Air Canada has even agreed to pick up the tab to fly the bird home in a special box — in business class, no less.

But before that can happen, special import permits required by B.C.'s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development that would allow a migratory bird to be "migrated" by humans across provincial borders must be approved.

Patty McLaughlin of the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre says the rare Bullock's oriole is 'a celebrity and doesn't even know it.' (Stu Mills/CBC)

"These laws are there to protect our birds, so people aren't collecting them or keeping them," said McLaughlin. "It takes a lot of coordination from a lot of different people to move a bird like this across the country."

Approvals for the import papers required by B.C. could take up to six weeks.

Needs clean bill of health

The oriole had recuperated from her brush with an icy death by last spring, and the centre wanted to have her on the wing in the summer of 2016.

However, it took longer than expected to find a western bird sanctuary able to assist with her relocation.

The import permits also required a thorough checkup and a clean bill of health from the Wild Bird Care Centre's veterinarian. Those health reports then needed to be approved by veterinarians in B.C., as well as by the ministry.

That could mean the oriole doesn't touch down in Vancouver until late August.

McLaughlin said while that's a little frustrating, it comes with the territory. She hopes that by the end of August, the wayward Bullock's oriole can finally return to the sky.

"These are rules we need to abide by to protect our birds," she said. "It's part of the job."