Red-tailed tropicbirds are aces of tropical Pacific skies. They're big white birds with striking black eye markings. Each has two ridiculously long red tail feathers in the midst of its normal white tail feathers (thus Phaethon rubricauda). They catch fish by plunging into the sea from a height and grabbing them. Also squid.
The tropicbird is one of those seabirds that usually doesn't bother with land. They fly or rest on the water. But that doesn't work when a bird is in that awkward egg stage, so they breed on islands. They like to nest colonially, let's say on a nice coral atoll, tucked under a bush, or in a niche between hunks of coral.
Sometimes, apparently, a bird looking for a nice flat atoll lands on the nice flat deck of a ship, and tucks itself into a niche between cargo containers, and sits there peaceably waiting for the rest of the gang to show up, unfussed that the island it has selected is moving, like Spidermonkey Island in The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.
Recently a tropicbird was found sitting zazen on a Korean cargo ship. When the ship arrived in southern California, the bird was brought to International Bird Rescue's San Pedro center, where she was found to be in good health. On a recent visit, I saw her there, resting on a mesh haul-out in a small private pool. She looked at us cheerfully. It seems that tropicbirds are among the island birds that have no fear of land animals such as humans.
Her pool was too small for plunge-feeding. IBR's blog has video of the tropicbird being fed fish. “Ah, they are grabbing my head. Yes, they are prying open my bill and inserting a fish. Ooh, there's a fish in my bill. Sweet.” The tropicbird swallows, sometimes with a little throat massage to urge the fish along, and sits placidly. It does not occur to her to reach a few inches forward and take another fish. That's not how she rolls.
Tropicbirds are aerialists but not distance fliers, so after tests came up negative for contagious diseases, and USFWS permission was received, the bird was put on a plane to Hawaii and then on another to Midway Island. There they put her in the water and off she flew.
Red-tailed tropicbirds breed on Midway, so with any luck she'll find a mate, and a nest site that doesn't shift coordinates, and will not depend on the kindness of Korean sailors, bird rescuers, and government agencies. Island tameness can be a disastrous feature for wild animals, but in this bird's case it worked out nicely.