There are probably not many who can claim to have had a fairy in the kitchen, but we can. We came home after work today to find an unexpected visitor: a small grey bird with webbed feet huddled in the backyard. Our border collie had been considerately keeping it company. We brought the little chap inside out of the weather into a towel-lined box, an arrangement he seemed perfectly happy with.
After an hour trawling the internet we identified it as a fairy prion (Pachyptila turtur), found throughout ocean and coastal areas in the Southern Hemisphere (an excellent website for identifying unknown birds is http://nzbirdsonline.org.nz) We are some kilometres from the sea, but it has been quite stormy and it must have been blown in from the sea on strong winds.
It is a very placid creature, and seems quite contended tucking its head in its wing and sleeping, even amidst the ruckus of clamouring toddlers, TV and other noise of a busy household. It shows no fear of either humans or border collies, probably because it wouldn’t generally encounter either of them in its natural oceanic island habitat. This clearly illustrates how vulnerable New Zealand’s birds and animals (such as seals) would have been when humans and mammalian predators first arrived on these shores.
Apparently its diet consists mainly of planktonic crustaceans and other tiny sea animals, which it feeds on at night from the water’s surface. This poses a slight challenge as we don’t have much in the way of planktonic crustaceans in our pantry. Never mind – we intend to release the little fellow back out on the beach tonight and hope he finds his way back home, now that the weather has settled.
Epilogue: our visitor was taken down to the beach, just south of the Waikanae estuary that evening. For the trip there, he sat quite happily on an old towel in the passenger’s seat of our people-mover, and perched on my husband’s arm as they made their way over the dunes to the beach. Once this little fellow felt the sea breeze in his feathers, he stretched out his wings, and off he flew, at what my husband described at “lightening” speed. Safe travels, little guy!