Norman the booby bird flown home to Caribbean after unscheduled UK stay

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A tropical bird found washed up on a British beach has been flown 5,000 miles (8,000km) home to the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean in time for Christmas after being nursed back to health.

The red-footed booby bird was discovered underweight and dehydrated on a pebble beach at St Leonards-on-Sea, near Hastings in East Sussex, on September 4.

The bird, nicknamed Norman, underwent intensive care at the RSPCA's Mallydams Wood wildlife centre where he spent time under a heat lamp to ward off the cold and ate sprats to build up his strength.

Mystery surrounds how the young bird managed to be blown off course and end up on a UK beach where he was found by East Sussex resident Gail Cohen.

But now Norman, the first red-footed booby bird recorded in the UK, is settling in at a nature reserve in the Cayman Islands after being transported on a 12-hour British Airways flight from Heathrow on Thursday.

Mallydams wildlife rehabilitation team manager Richard Thompson said: "It is just fantastic to see Norman make his way home after the team here have worked so hard nursing him back to health and full strength.

"We are used to dealing with native seabirds here - like gulls and terns - but he is the first booby bird we have ever seen here at the RSPCA and the UK. It is amazing to think we've had a hand in his care.

"Norman has done so well - especially when you consider how weak and dehydrated he was when he came in. We have been keeping a close eye on him along the way and keeping him warm with heat lamps."

RSPCA wildlife vet Barbara Watson flew alongside Norman to keep an eye on his progress and carry out vet checks before and after the flight.

Ms Watson said: "I never imagined in my career I would be asked to treat a booby bird as they have never been seen over here before. It is incredible to think how he got to the south coast of England.

"I don't think we will ever really know how - but it is amazing and we are really grateful to everyone that has had a hand in helping him to get him back home safely."

Following his epic journey home, Norman is due to spend 30 days in quarantine before he is released to join other booby birds.

Captain Shaun Griffiths, who flew BA Flight 0253 from Heathrow to Grand Cayman, said: "All of our customers are special and, despite having flown a number of VIPs before, Norman is by far the most unusual.

"The beaches of the Cayman Islands are some of the most beautiful in the world and we are thrilled he can start the new year in the sunshine."

Gabriella Tamasi, live animals product manager at IAG Cargo, said the shipment highlighted the air cargo industry's important role in the protection of endangered species.