Rare bird, native to Maine and Canada, ends up on Florida beach

A group of beachgoers discovered an Atlantic Puffin bird on the shore of Ponce Inlet, marking the first discovery of its kind in Volusia County.

Ponce Inlet resident Alicia De Barreno said she was biking on the beach when she noticed a bird struggling in the water. "It wasn't, wasn't doing what it should have been doing." De Barreno said. "I didn’t think it was okay." De Barreno called her friend Karin Henigan and her husband Larry over to take a look.

They noticed it trying to walk back into the water, but it was unable to.  "Once we realized what he was… [we realized he's not supposed to be here.]

"[We] just couldn’t leave ‘em there. My heart couldn’t leave ‘em there," Karin said. The group named the animal "Paulie." After calling experts, they decided to take it to get medical attention.

Larry wrapped the bird in a towel and placed it in a box before taking it to the nearby Marine Science Center’s bird hospital.

There, they tended to the bird, attempting to nurse it back to health. The manager of the center, Chad Macfie said the bird came in severely underweight and tired. Despite those efforts, the Puffin did not survive.

"We were kind of excited about going up to Maine to release the puffin, but unfortunately, it didn't make it," he said. He added that the bird had been donated to the University of Florida for research purposes. 

"It was heartbreaking," Karin said.

The birds are native to Northern places with cold water such as Maine. Macfie said strong winds and the pursuit of food likely lead the bird thousands of miles from where it belongs. He said Puffins live most of their lives at sea, and therefore are not well-suited to survive on land.

"They're not as adapted to living in terrestrial environments like other birds are," Macfie said. 

You’re asked to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission or beach safety if you come across a stranded or wounded animal.