12/22/2011 10:58 EST | Updated 02/21/2012 05:12 EST

Puffin found on Montreal street heads home

A once-wayward puffin that became the talk of Montreal flew to St. John's Thursday, albeit aboard an Air Canada jet.

The puffin, which some believed arrived in Montreal aboard a ship and whose plight attracted national attention this week, was put in an animal carrier aboard a flight to St. John's that arrived late Thursday afternoon.

"It's obviously in pretty good shape," said Stan Tobin, an environmentalist who has worked for many years with seabirds, and who agreed to take care of the puffin.

Tobin said he would like to release the seabird into the wild in early January, but first will need to identify a puffin colony with which it can live.

"I don't know if we should release it from the land, or maybe look for someone with a boat to take it offshore," Tobin told CBC News.

Comedian Rick Mercer, who happened to be on the flight carrying the puffin to St. Johns', said the puffin's tale was a delight to follow this week.

"Newfoundlanders have always gone away for work, I guess. He wouldn't be the first one," Mercer told CBC News.

"The puffin got home for Christmas, as did I, no delays."

Lindsay D'Aoust of the Hudson, Que., bird rehabilitation centre Le Nichoir said she was " very nervous and a little bit sad" as she said farewell to the puffin at the Air Canada cargo hangar.

"Shipping him is not without risks and if we left him here … he's a wild bird, and he needs to go back to the wild and this is it, but it's very stressful and there's risks inherent."

The year-old puffin has been living in D’Aoust’s bathtub for the past few days.

Airline covers shipping cost

Le Nichoir believes the bird may have ended up on a ship heading up the St. Lawrence River from the East Coast and wound up on the streets of Montreal.

Air Canada covered the estimated $150 shipping cost to return the bird to Newfoundland and Labrador.

To make the trip, the puffin was placed on a hammock-like bed and loaded into an animal crate.

D’Aoust said the bird has a long, stressful trip ahead with a layover in Toronto.

She said she was anxious to hear that the wandering bird made it safely to its final destination.

The puffin will be checked over by a wild bird specialist when it arrives in St. John's.

D’Aoust said she expects he'll be back at sea by January.