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Hopes Take Wing With Capture, Sightings of Zoo Birds

February 6, 1995

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Bronx Zoo on Monday recaptured one bird and received many reported sightings of others among 32 birds let loose into the urban sky when a century-old aviary collapsed in a storm.

One of the South American seabirds, a Grey gull, showed up in another part of the zoo Sunday evening.

``He was sort of strolling along one of the walkways, looking a little confused, so we did the old get-some-nets-and-surround-him routine, got him and brought him back,″ zoo spokesman Patrick Milliman said.

About six loose birds later were spotted around the zoo, and solid sightings of others were reported elsewhere in the city. The birds have metal or colored-plastic leg bands.

Christine Sheppard, the zoo’s curator of birds, said there was a ``reasonably plausible″ report that 10 missing Andean terns were spotted in Jackson, N.J., more than 60 miles away.

The zoo’s Harry de Jur Aviary, dating from 1899, was home for 101 birds. Sixty-nine were trapped or just stayed put when snow, wind and age brought down their 40-foot-high, 125-foot-long metal cage Saturday morning.

The gulls that got loose were one Band-tail, eight Greys, 12 Andeans and 12 Incas. The exhibit also had included Magellanic penguins and guanay cormorants.

None is an endangered species, though some are considered uncommon.

The cold weather wasn’t likely to bother the birds since they had lived in the open air.

Their biggest challenge is finding the fish diet they’re accustomed to getting twice a day, and competing against the city’s less pampered pigeons, starlings and sea gulls.

Fish put out to entice one of the missing Grey gulls spotted Monday in Central Park was snapped up by local gulls, said Tesa Sallenave, who was coordinating sighting reports.

Kim Yozzo, the aviary’s senior keeper, spotted two Inca terns and one Grey gull flying over a McDonald’s just outside the zoo when she drove to work Monday morning.

``I stopped my car ... and I was like (pleading to the birds), `Just go, go _ go across the street.′ But you can’t get them to go across the street just by telling them.″

Sheppard and Yozzo took strong exception to the notion that the birds simply, well, flew the coop.

``If your house collapsed, what would you do? You’d move toward the first open space you could find,″ Sheppard said.

``The cormorant’s natural strategy of being is to sit on a rock. And the thing fell down while they were hanging out and they moved to another rock and waited for us to come get them,″ Sheppard said.

The natural reaction of the gulls, however, is to fly, and they were caught by the wind, Sheppard said.

``This is where they were born, this is where they know, this is where they’re comfortable, their friends are there, and they don’t know how to get back,″ she said.

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