Masked Booby Admitted to CROW, A First For the Clinic

In a year that has seen a lot of unusual things, it is no surprise that the Clinic for the Rehabilitation for Wildlife (CROW) recently admitted a patient whose species has never been seen at the wildlife clinic, at least according to digital records dating back to 2012. The patient is a masked booby, one of six species of booby found throughout the world.

Boobies are ocean-dwelling birds that spend most of their time at sea. They hunt fish by plunging from a height into the water and using their large, webbed feet to dive after their prey. The only time they come ashore is to nest, which typically takes place in colonies on remote islands far from the mainland.

The masked booby is the largest booby species with a wingspan of 63-67 inches. They are found in tropical oceans around the world between the 30th parallels. The closest breeding colonies are located in the Caribbean although they have attempted to nest in the Dry Tortugas located west of the Florida Keys. These birds are typically encountered at sea in the Gulf of Mexico or off the eastern coast of Florida.

Masked boobies are especially spectacular divers when going after different species of flying fish, their favorite prey. They will plunge from heights up to 100 feet and dive nearly 10 feet to catch their quarry. A life at sea means there is little information about population trends, but it appears to be a species in decline. Across its breeding range, the masked booby is most threatened by humans and the introduced predators on the remote islands where they nest.

On Wednesday, September 9, sea turtle patrol volunteer Stefanie Plein was surprised to find one of these birds on the beach at the north end of Captiva Island. It was clear the bird was unable to fly away, so she contacted CROW for help. CROW volunteer Jim Columbo soon arrived to capture the bird and transport it to the wildlife hospital.

Veterinarians examined the booby and found that it was thin, but able to stand. Radiographs showed it had an enlarged spleen, a sign that it may have an underlying infection that needed to be treated.

“We started the bird on antibiotics and after a couple days in care it began to eat on its own,” says Dr. Melanie Peel, one of CROW’s veterinary interns. “We will continue to monitor that it is gaining weight and provide supportive care over the coming days.”

THIS WEEK AT CROW (9/2-9/8):
There were 103 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 31 eastern gray squirrels, an eastern screech owl, a great egret, a snowy egret, three gopher tortoises, a prothonotary warbler, a clapper rail and a barred owl. Recent Releases include a Cooper’s hawk, a laughing gull, a gopher tortoise, and a marsh rabbit. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases!

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!

Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road. All Florida residents receive 10% off admission with proof of residency throughout the month of September!

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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