12/22/2011 03:20 EST | Updated 02/21/2012 05:12 EST

From Montreal's streets to the coast of Newfoundland: lost puffin returns home

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - It took a little help, but a young Atlantic puffin rescued last week from Montreal's bustling downtown has arrived in its suspected home on the East Coast.

The wayward puffin, believed to be less than a year old, touched down Thursday at the airport in St. John's, N.L., aboard a scheduled passenger flight compliments of Air Canada.

Stan Tobin of the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Association was waiting to greet the black-and-white bird, along with reporters and TV news cameras.

"It's doing perfect," Tobin said in a phone interview as he gave the winged celebrity a once-over.

"You know, that's a long (trip). Better shape than I'd be in after doing that."

Puffins, with their distinctive orange beaks, are the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador. The province is home to nearly all Canadian breeding grounds for puffins.

A veterinary technician spotted the disoriented puffin toddling down a busy Montreal street a week ago, more than 1,000 kilometres away from the East Coast.

It's unclear how the bird ended up in Montreal, but one theory is that it may have boarded a ship in Atlantic Canada and hitched a ride.

The puffin, about the size of three fists, was cared for at a local bird rehabilitation centre until its voyage to St. John's in a heated cargo hold.

Tobin said the puffin will check in at another bird rehabilitation centre and eventually be taken offshore and released.

"We're gonna hold it in the rehab centre, in the swimming pools there for a week or maybe a little bit more, depending on the condition of the bird," he said.

In his 20-year career, Tobin said he's never been involved in such an unusual, albeit heartwarming, rescue.

"It was different, I'll tell you that," he said. "We've encountered a lot of birds, you know, injured birds and birds harmed by oil pollution. But never a puffin from Montreal."