PEI

Brown booby hops ferry to P.E.I., rides back to N.S. next morning

On the ride over to P.E.I. the bird sat around like every other passenger, although it probably wondered why everyone was staring at it.

Tropical bird rare in region

'They're not common around here at all,' says Janelle MacLeod. (Submitted by Megan Thorne)

A tropical bird took the ferry to P.E.I. for a little vacation this past Thanksgiving weekend.

It boarded the late-evening ferry leaving Caribou, N.S., on Sunday, making the trek over to Wood Islands, P.E.I., where it stayed the night.

"I had never seen it before, it had like pelican feet," said Megan Thorne, who works with Northumberland Ferries.

"They were webbed and they were large, and he was a really huge bird for what I'm used to seeing. He looked really tired and was just kind of sitting there. He wasn't going anywhere."

Why exactly did the bird climb aboard?

No one knew for sure. Some say it just wanted a rest and "he didn't have to wait in line" for the ferry, Thorne laughed.

On the ride over to P.E.I. the bird sat around with the other passengers, although it probably wondered why everyone was staring at it.

'I'm sure the people who found the bird roosting that night on the ferry were quite confused as to what it was,' says Dwaine Oakley. (Submitted by Megan Thorne)

"He was just sitting there and he was friendly and he was looking all around and looking at everybody," she said. "He wasn't hurt in any way, he was absolutely fine he was just really tired and needed a little rest."

Throne was worried for its health, though, and sent a photo to her friend Janelle MacLeod, who works with the Souris and Area Branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation.

"They're not common around here at all," MacLeod told CBC News.

"It's a little concerning that they're this far north but maybe with all the hurricanes and bad weather in the States he just kind of lost his way and ended up up here."

Like Thorne, MacLeod said the bird was probably just resting, but she didn't know for sure and couldn't identify it.

So, she figured Dwaine Oakley, a bird enthusiast and instructor with Holland College's wildlife conservation technology program, could help identify the white-bellied ferry rider.

And, MacLeod said, Oakley "got pretty excited."

'Super, incredible, rare record for P.E.I.'

As soon as he saw the photo Monday morning he knew it was an immature brown booby.

"Oh my God," he recalls thinking. "I was just like 'here's a bird that I've been finally waiting for to see on P.E.I.'" 

'Super, incredible, rare record for P.E.I. and hopefully it turns up again so some people can get to see it,' Dwaine Oakley says. (Submitted by Megan Thorne)

The brown booby is a large seabird that's not common to find this far north, he said, as it's typical range is around Central America, Jamaica, Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico region, Oakley said.

But there is the "odd stray" that would show up in the Maritimes now and then, he added, and in this case it managed to hitch a ride on the ferry to P.E.I. to rest.

"I'm sure the people who found the bird roosting that night on the ferry were quite confused as to what it was," he said.

"It's a large bird, very hard to miss and I'm sure it was just looking for a spot to hangout and sleep for the night."

He was a really huge bird for what I'm used to seeing.— Megan Thorne

Excited at the thought of seeing the bird in person, he was getting ready to grab all his photography gear, run out and and take photos of it — except he learned that he was too late.

The bird jumped on the early-morning ferry back to Caribou, where it then flew off.

Although it was disappointing to miss the bird, he alerted some birders in Nova Scotia to keep an eye out for it, he said, as it may be the first brown booby that's visited P.E.I.

"It is one of those species that we've been kind of keeping an eye out for to see if we can actually add it to our provincial lists. Which this definitely confirms it when they have photos like that," he said.

"Super, incredible, rare record for P.E.I. and hopefully it turns up again so some people can get to see it."

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About the Author

Cody MacKay

Web Writer

Cody hails from Summerside, Prince Edward Island, and is a UPEI History and Carleton Masters of Journalism alum. He joined CBC P.E.I. in July, 2017. Reach him at cody.mackay@cbc.ca

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