WAYWARD BOOBY HELPED BACK TO ROTA HOME

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By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 3) – The tourist arrival numbers last month missed at least one visitor who came to the island of Guam and stayed 25 days.

But then again, she wasn't your typical vacationer.

She was Bindy, a young red-footed booby who flew from her nesting grounds in Rota to Guam's northern beaches, where she was found injured last month. She was adopted by a local biologist and her friends, and nursed back to health.

Boobies, or "lu'ao" in Chamorro, are a seabird found worldwide, particularly in the tropics. The Mariana Islands have several species of boobies. The most common is the brown booby, while the largest is the masked booby, which has a wingspan over five feet. Red-footed boobies are the smallest with a wingspan of about three feet.

None of the boobies nest on Guam; they prefer the Northern Mariana Islands. However, the birds sometimes fly south from Rota to feed in Guam's waters.

It's likely that this is what Bindy was trying to do, when somewhere along the way, she injured her wing. Urunao residents found the bird in the waters near their homes, and took her to the Ritidian Wildlife Refuge.

It was there that the bird met her Guam tour guide, biologist Jennifer Farley, who works for the U.S. Geological Survey's Brown Tree Snake Project.

Since Guam doesn't have an organization or funding to handle injured wild animals, Farley decided to take on the case herself. Farley has worked mostly with snakes since she's been on Guam, and had helped rehabilitate a fruit bat. She'd also helped rehabilitate animals in Australia earlier in her career.

The day the bird arrived, Farley took her to the Animal Medical Clinic because the bird couldn't fly. An examination did not reveal any broken bones in the wing, but a call to an avian specialist at a Sydney Zoo clarified that the birds often injure themselves in the chest area. The specialist said that there was very little to do except give the bird time to rest and heal.

Farley brought the bird home and put her in a modified dog kennel converted into a small aviary.

The bird, later dubbed "Bindy," refused to eat, and Farley had to force-feed the bird about once every three hours.

A couple of local fish marts, the Fisherman's Coop and the Philippine Fish Mart, heard of Bindy's plight, and they donated fish guts to the cause. UnderWater World donated two cases of frozen feeding fish.

After Bindy had spent about a week in the small cage, Farley and a friend converted half of his back porch into a larger aviary, about 5 feet wide, 8 feet high and 7 feet long. Bindy's new lodgings were elaborately outfitted, complete with a special rubber and towel floor to protect Bindy's delicate webbed feet.

Farley had arranged for Bindy to get a free ride back to Rota on a U.S. Coast Guard boat once she was healthy enough, but Bindy beat her to the punch.

The third time Farley took her to Ritidian, the bird instantly starting flapping, and within a minute, she was airborne.

"(She) regurgitated a few lake smelt (small fish) on the way to lighten the load and flew about 100 meters down the beach into a Casuarina tree like a pro," Farley later described.

Bindy sat up in the tree and flapped for about a half an hour, and Farley was pondering how she might get Bindy down from the tree, when suddenly the bird took off.

She headed straight toward Rota.

"It was amazing to watch," said Farley. "I sprinted down the beach after her to make sure she wasn't coming back in, and then I stopped and watched until I lost sight of her over the open ocean."

[PIR editor’s note: The small island of Rota is the southernmost island in the Northern Mariana Islands chain located just northeast of Guam.]

November 3, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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