NEWS

Once-lost puffin prepped for recovery

12/28/2011 01:39 EST | Updated 02/27/2012 05:12 EST

A wayward puffin that made headlines across Canada this month after it was found on the streets of Montreal is knocking back fish and regaining the waterproofing that will help it survive a return to the Atlantic Ocean.

"He's doing pretty well, as you can see there," said Stan Tobin, who has been caring for the puffin at the Seabird Rehabilitation Centre in the southern Newfoundland community of Ship Cove since the seabird was flown to St. John's last week.

"No problem at all. Eats well - I was just looking at his food thing there a few minutes ago, where he had eight capelin. There's three left."

A day earlier, the puffin pretty much ate his own weight in capelin, a staple of the puffin diet. Tobin said the unnamed bird — he will be called Paddy the Puffin, if a sexing test shows the bird is male — needs the fish to gain weight and recover.

"He was kind of skinny when he got here," said Tobin, who has worked for years in aiding seabirds, including those that have been soaked in oily bilge waters that ships have illegally dumped at sea.

It's not known how the puffin wound up in Montreal, but Tobin suspects the bird struck a cargo vessel on the southern Grand Banks, and didn't get off until it docked in Montreal.

Along the way, Tobin said, the bird lost its waterproofing.

"[It] probably spent a lot of his time out of the water," said Tobin, who has been bathing the bird frequently to prompt a preening response.

Tobin hopes to release the bird within a week or two, but not to the frigid waters of Placentia Bay. Instead, he would like to see the bird taken somehow to the shipping lanes of the Grand Banks, where the waters are warmer because of the Gulf Stream.

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