Tropical bird thriving on LI after Atlantic water rescue

A crew of commercial fishermen returned from a A crew of commercial fishermen returned from a January trip with a rare catch. They discovered a tropical marsh bird called a purple gallinule on Jan. 16, flapping in cold, choppy waters 75 miles south of Nantucket, Mass., and rescued it with a fishing basket. The bird, associated with areas farther south, was "definitely in the wrong place," said boat owner Fred Green. Thin and dehydrated, it was taken to the Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, which nurtured it back to health and made arrangements to return it to a warmer climate. | Here's the story Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

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The Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays is nurturing back to health a wayward tropical bird fished out of the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Purple Gallinule, a marsh bird ordinarily associated with areas much further south, was chomping on live crickets at the center Friday after a rescue at sea one month ago by a Long Island fisherman.

Found Jan. 16 struggling in the waters about 75 miles south of Nantucket, Mass., the bird, primarily from the southern United States, Central and South America, is thriving, having gained 24 grams on a diet that also includes meal worms, seeds and bits of fruit, said Virginia Frati, executive director.

As for rescued birds, this is "definitely the most unusual one we ever had," she said, not only for being off its normal turf, but also for being found at sea -- about 75 miles south of Nantucket. As a non seafaring creature, Frati said, it has no natural waterproofing.

Brought to the center Jan. 17 by fisherman Frank Green, the bird was "dehydrated and somewhat thin," Frati said. The creature now "is doing very, very well," and plans are afoot to coordinate with a wildlife center in Florida for its later return to warmer climes.

Attempts to reach Green Friday were not successful.

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While its age and gender are unknown, the bird appears to be at least a year and a half old, she said.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website, the Purple Gallinule, ordinarily "can be seen walking on top of floating vegetation or clambering through dense shrubs. Its extremely long toes help it walk on lily pads without sinking." Though its normal range is from the southernmost United States and south, it "regularly turns up in northern states and southern Canada," the site says.

Indeed, Bethany Rotter, veterinarian with the Wildlife Rescue Center, said there have been reports of these birds "ending up in strange places -- even as far north as Ontario."

Frati said she could offer no explanation for the bird's presence at sea, other than its possibly being blown along by a storm system.

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