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Professor Documents Seabird's First State Appearance

September 23, 2011

Story by: Laurie Morrissey
College Communications and Marketing

Photos by: Carly Peicott '12

Prof. Pitocchelli with White-tailed TropicbirdHurricane Irene brought biology professor Jay Pitocchelli an unexpected chance to obtain a bird specimen never before recorded in New Hampshire. It was the first state record for a White-tailed Tropicbird. It was found on August 30 in Claremont, N.H. following the hurricane.

Preliminary examination suggests that this individual belongs to the subspecies Phaethon lepturus catesbyi that breeds in Bermuda and West Indies.

"The record is especially interesting since this species is a pelagic seabird closely related to pelicans, cormorants and gannets," the professor says. "It spends most of its time at sea and only comes to land once a year to breed. Finding an ocean wanderer like this tropicbird this far inland is an extremely rare event and requires careful scientific documentation."

The bird was found alive and brought to the Saint Francis Wild Bird Hospital in Lyme, where it died the next day.

"Unfortunately, this bird was stranded in an inappropriate ecological environment without adequate food resources," Pitocchelli says. "It was also undergoing extensive feather replacement that was increasing its energy requirements and need for food."

The bird will be prepared as a study skin specimen at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.