Magnificent: Gulf Coast bird sighted here
September 16, 2005
BY DAN ROZEK Staff Reporter
The bird's long, narrow wings and its lazy, effortless glide caught Bob Fisher's eye as he drove near his Downers Grove home.
An avid birder for more than 15 years, Fisher said he quickly recognized it as a magnificent frigatebird, which boasts a 7-foot wingspan and is almost never seen in Illinois.
Fisher, 63, has spotted such birds before, but usually in the Florida Keys or along the Gulf Coast -- their usual habitat.
He and other avian enthusiasts say the lone bird he spotted late last week likely is a straggler that rode the dying winds of Hurricane Katrina all the way to the Chicago area. "This is not a bird you'd at all expect to see in this area, except when they're pushed out of their usual environment by hurricanes,'' he said.
A Field Museum ornithologist agreed, saying the last accepted frigatebird sighting in Illinois was in 1988 after Hurricane Gilbert.
Fisher said he saw the bird for only 30 to 40 seconds and didn't get a picture of it, but is confident it was a frigatebird -- in part because it glided so smoothly.
So, how does a story like this get into the paper? Well, here's how: Last week I got a call from a reporter I know at WBBM 780 radio. That reporter talked to me about West Nile, and the story aired last week. I gave him a tip about the Mag Frigatebird sighting, and gave him Bob Fisher's phone number. So the WBBM reporter called Bob and put the story on the radio.
I have been surprised to learn how many print reporters get their stories or leads from WBBM. The Sun-Times reporter must have heard the story, and then called Bob to talk to him. One time I talked to WBBM and the Sun-Times picked up the story, including a reference to things I had said, without even talking to me!
So, this is a lesson for birders out there that are trying to get publicity for their efforts...conservation, birding clubs, whatever...if you place the first story in the right media outlets, other media will pick up on it.