The magnificent frigatebird, which has an 8ft wing-span, was picked up exhausted and close to death on a beach near Castletown on the Isle of Man by a wildlife enthusiast who has since been looking after it at her home.
Thousands of bird-watchers want to see the exotic casualty, only the second to have been recorded in the UK (the other bird died), but the woman's name and address are being kept secret to avoid disturbance to her patient. Ted Abraham, founder of the Merseyside-based Birdline North West information service, said yesterday: "So far no more than two or three people have seen the bird, which has been confirmed as an adult female magnificent frigatebird."
The bird was picked up in an extremely weak condition on 22 December but its arrival was kept secret until now. "It must have been blown into the Irish Sea by one of those severe south-westerly gales during December," Mr Abraham said.
"Frigatebirds are among the few birds able to ride out hurricanes in flight but this one was probably in a poor state due to being in the air a long time - they never land on water - and difficulties over feeding in the storms." It is now recovering on a diet of squid and arrangements are expected to be made with an airline to give it a free flight back to the West Indies, from where it most likely originated, when it is fully fit, Mr Abraham said. "A lot of people are hoping it will be released here so they can see its return to the wild but the danger is that it would not be able to find its way back to the Caribbean and would end up coming to grief on another British Isles beach," he said. However, negotiations had begun for the bird to be transferred to a wildlife care centre on the mainland where, as well as receiving treatment, it could be seen by bird-watchers. "One complication is that it needs to go through a process of dehumanisation so it can live in the wild again. In the tropics, frigatebirds have become tame by people feeding them," Mr Abraham added.