ALCATRAZ ISLAND, Calif. — Biologists have flocked to Alcatraz Island to get a glimpse of a seabird that is believed to have never previously visited the waters of the Pacific.
The sleek white bird — known as a northern gannet — is native to the Atlantic Ocean.
National Park Service biologist Tori Seher took birders to the island to try to spot the bird on Tuesday, a day after she says it was seen taking nesting material from another bird species and searching for a mate.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that scientists believe the bird flew across the Arctic Sea in 2012 when ice coverage was low. The birds have wingspans that can reach 71 inches and dive into the sea at speeds of 60 mph to catch fish.
The bird seekers searched all over the famous island prison on Tuesday, but the gannet that was seen just a day earlier was nowhere to be found.
“It’s kind of to be expected with birds, especially rare birds,” said Daphne Hatch, the National Park Service’s chief of natural resources management and science. “They have a mind of their own.”
There will likely be other chances to view the bird, however. It has also been spotted at the Farallon Islands and Stinson Beach.
In Maine, bird spotters during the 2013 Audubon Christmas Bird Count tallied four northern gannets in or near the waters of the Bath-Phippsburg counting zone.