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Environment & Energy

Tropical Bird Finds a Temporary Home in Northeast Ohio

photo of a rare tropical bird known as brown booby at Nimisila Reservoir
GARY TRAVENY
A young brown booby has taken up residence at Nimisila Reservoir near Akron. The rare tropical migrant is drawing huge crowds of birders.

A tropical bird has taken up residence in Northeast Ohio.

The local appearance of the normally sea-going brown booby has created quite a stir among birders.

It’s the first time the Caribbean native has been seen in Ohio.

Summit County Metro Parks naturalist Janean Kazimir spots the bird on a dead tree limb along the shore of  Nimisila Reservoir just south of Akron.

She says the young bird likely got blown here by a recent hurricane, “with all those big winds pushing north, you have a young bird that maybe is not as strong at flying.”

The lone sea bird has plenty to eat at Nimisila, which is pristine habitat.

But Kazimir wonders what will happen when cold weather sets in.

“We really hope that nature is going to take its course and take it in the right way, that this bird is going to naturally find its way south.”

In the meantime the lone brown booby is drawing crowds of birders from all over Ohio and neighboring states, thrilled to add the rare migrant to their life lists.

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Credit GARY TRAVENY
The brown booby is only brown when young. Adult birds have striking black and white plumage, but retain bright yellow feet, as seen in this young bird at Nimisila Reservoir.

Kazimir says the unusual name is derived from early Spanish explorers who called the birds el bobo, the fool, because they showed no fear of humans. The name became booby in English.

The brown booby, or Sula leucogaster, is one of six species of booby, and with the closely related gannets make up the Sulid family.

Far from foolish, they are an ancient family of sea birds who are suberb fish catchers. The Sulid family is unusual in that they lack external nostrils, which aids in their ability to dive into the ocean at high speeds.

The brown booby at Nimisila, when it hopefully reaches adulthood, will transform into a striking black and white bird with bright yellow feet.