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Brown Booby Spotted in Buffalo for First Time

October 11, 2013

A brown booby, like the one shown above, was spotted in Buffalo, N.Y. for the first time ever. These birds are typically found in more tropical climates. (Duncan/Flickr)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Birdwatchers in Buffalo are buzzing over the sighting of a brown booby.

Birders flocked to the city’s Lake Erie and Niagara River waterfronts this week to get a glimpse of the gull-like tropical diving bird normally found along the coasts of Central America.

It is the first time a brown booby has been sighted in the region.

It’s unusual to spot one anywhere in the United States, except in Florida and Southern California, experts said. One of the birds was seen this year in Connecticut.

“Its appearance here, well, there’s no explanation. The probability of one here is in the millions,” said Dominic Sherony of Fairport, who is among dozens of people from around western New York and Ontario who have arrived in Buffalo with binoculars and cameras.

“It’s not a bird kept in zoos or aviaries,” Sherony told The Buffalo News, discounting the idea it may have escaped from somewhere. “This is really mysterious.”

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The bird was first reported Monday and was seen again Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. It initially was spotted by birdwatchers Sue Barth and Jim Pawlicki, who had braved a rainy Monday in search of another bird, a jaeger, which only comes out in bad weather.

“I’ve been on a mission to find a jaeger....Then Jim saw this bird,” Barth said. “Just being there was a stroke of luck. The conditions were so horrible, I don’t know how he even spotted it.”

The brown booby was with a group of double-crested cormorants, a common local waterbird similar in size and coloring to the booby.

“He was super-excited. At first he thought his eyes were deceiving him, but they weren’t,” Barth said of Pawlicki.

While insects are occasionally blown in on weather systems, there is no meteorological explanation for the booby’s presence in Buffalo, said climatologist Jessica Spaccio at the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University. “It’s just so far and there wouldn’t be any kind of system it could have gotten caught up in,” she said.

Asked about global warming, Spaccio said climate-change related migrations would happen more gradually and in larger numbers.

Birdwatchers are concerned that the bird, alone and far from its much warmer usual habitat, might not be able to find enough to eat in Buffalo. They are hopeful it will join the cormorants when they migrate south for winter.

MORE: Stunning Bird Portraits

Victoria-crowned pigeon, Goura victoria. The lavish crest and red eyes make this bird unmistakable. (Andrew Zuckerman)


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