back to top

A Tropical Seabird Found Starving On An English Beach Was Flown Home For The Holidays

Norman, a red-footed booby, spent months under heat lamps as he was nursed back to health for his return trip home to the Cayman Islands.

Posted on

The cold, underweight bird was found by a passerby on a pebble beach at St Leonards-on-Sea, surprising wildlife experts. It was first time a member of the species, known for its distinctive red feet, had been spotted in England.

Norman spent three months under a special heat lamp to keep warm as rescuers nursed him back to health on a steady diet of small fish.

"We are used to dealing with native seabirds here — like gulls and terns — but he is the first booby bird we have ever seen here at the RSPCA and the UK," rehabilitation team manager Richard Thompson said in a statement. "It is amazing to think we’ve had a hand in his care."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which oversaw Norman's care, announced Monday that the bird had been flown successfully to a wildlife refuge in the Cayman Islands.

"I never imagined in my career I would be asked to treat a booby bird as they have never been seen over here before," RSPCA wildlife veterinarian Barbara Watson said in a statement. "It is so wonderful to be able to take Norman back to the wild where he belongs."

After the 12-hour British Airways flight Thursday from Heathrow airport, complete with a veterinary escort, Norman is now undergoing a 30-day quarantine before joining other red-footed boobies at the wildlife refuge.

The flight captain, Shaun Griffiths, described Norman as "by far the most unusual" passenger he'd ever had.


Jason Wells is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Jason Wells at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.