Ceballos and Martin motor out to rescue the frigatebird. SHANNON PITCHFORD/Keys Weekly

Out for her morning run to No Name Key, Pat Ceballos’ neighbor hurried to relay the sight of a seemingly injured frigatebird in the water by the bridge. As a volunteer of the Key West Wildlife Center, naturally Ceballos responded to the call and rushed to locate the animal. 

“She was in water and couldn’t fly, but we couldn’t figure out why,” said Ceballos, recounting her arrival at the water’s edge to inspect the situation.

The frigatebird was far enough out that a boat was needed for rescue, but as she didn’t have one, Ceballos considered going back home and returning with a kayak in order to reach it. However, time was not on the bird’s side: frigates, unlike other seabirds, don’t “rest” on the water like cormorants or seagulls. In fact, it’s very dangerous for frigatebirds because their wings aren’t waterproof. 

“Frigatebirds don’t float very well,” Ceballos said,  “after a while they do sink, so it’s very important to get them as soon as possible.” 

Michael Martin, a boater who lives a quarter mile out from Bogie Channel, noticed the frigatebird dive into the water, and not return to the surface. Knowing as well that frigatebirds cannot float for very long, he generously offered to pick Ceballos up and bring her out to the bird. With the use of his boat, and rescue equipment at the ready, Martin and Ceballos set out to retrieve the downed frigate. 

It became apparent that the bird had been accidentally hit by a line cast by someone fishing off the bridge. “The fisherman had cut the line because he didn’t know what to do, but [Martin] was able to unwrap the weighted line from the bird’s wing,” Ceballos said. 

This is a rescue story with a happy ending for all. Martin said he was able to return the line and sinker to the fisherman who, in return, donated some money to the Key West Wildlife Center. Martin decided it was fitting to name the frigate “Bogie,” as she had been rescued out of Bogie Channel. 

The Key West Wildlife Center takes injured birds, rehabilitates them, and releases them back into the wild. Thankfully, Bogie was not injured and only needed some time in the sun to dry off her wings before she received a clean bill of health (“no pun intended,” chuckled Martin) and flew away. 

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