Tropical Storm Irma didn’t just wash up giant buoys to the beaches of Hilton Head Island. It also brought a bird typically found only on far-away islands in the Mediterranean Sea or off the coast of Africa.
Island residents Sherry Goff and Joe Murray were walking in the sand Monday afternoon near the Sea Pines Beach Club when they spotted the Cory's Shearwater.
Murray said when they came upon the bird — who they’ve named Jerry — “he was sitting in the sand getting battered by the waves.”
The bird’s “wings were all spread out, it looked half drowned,” Goff said Thursday.
They pulled Jerry from surf and placed him in the grass of nearby golf course.
Initially, the couple thought Jerry might be an osprey.
Goff and Murray contacted Sea Pines wildlife officer Chris Bowers, who used a species manual to identify the bird as a Cory's Shearwater.
He then reached out to South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey, which operates an avian medical clinic in Charleston.
Staff with the center took Jerry in and confirmed that it is indeed a Cory's Shearwater, a species rarely seen in this part of the world.
“They live way out in the ocean,” Emily Davis with the Center for Birds of Prey said Thursday of the Cory's Shearwater. “These are birds who have never seen people before — they’re only on land during nesting season.”
They typically nest on remote mountainous islands in the eastern Atlantic, but strong storms such as Irma can scoop up birds and deposit them thousands of miles from their natural habitats, she said.
The bird Goff and Murray found is “very, thin, emaciated, and extremely dehydrated,” Davis said.
On Thursday afternoon, staff at the avian medical clinic were still in the process of stabilizing Jerry.
“We know he’s in good hands,” Goff said.
Davis said she couldn’t speculate on the bird’s prospects for a full recovery.
But, she said, “We are always optimistic — as long as the bird is fighting, we going to fight with it.”
“This bird is a fighter,” Davis said.