‘Amelia the Magnificent,’ a Frigatebird who flew off course during a winter storm | Photo courtesy El Paso Zoo

El Paso Zoo, Zoological Society return exotic Magnificent Frigatebird to Florida for release

The El Paso Zoo and Zoological Society have returned a Frigatebird named ‘Amelia the Magnificent,’ (named after Amelia Earhart), to her home state of Florida where the Frigatebird will be released into the wild.  

Zoo officials say that ‘Amelia’ flew off course during a winter storm, landed in El Paso, and was cared for at the El Paso Zoo. “After much TLC and plenty of fish, the Frigatebird was ready to go home,” zoo officials shared.

According to the Zoo and Zoo Society, they searched for a partner to help transport the bird back to the coast. That is when Southwest Airlines stepped in to help by making a special exception to allow the Frigatebird to fly in-cabin with the Zoo’s Chief Veterinarian Dr. Victoria Milne to Florida.

“We learned firsthand that Southwest Airlines truly cares for our community, and values wildlife,” said Renee Neuert, Executive Director of the El Paso Zoological Society. “We appreciate the Southwest Airlines Employees in El Paso, Houston, and Miami who provided great Hospitality to Amelia and Dr. Milne as they traveled from El Paso to Miami.”

We were all very excited that the Zoological Society was able to arrange with Southwest such a special flight for Amelia the lost Frigatebird,” said El Paso Zoo Director Joe Montisano. “Normally, our critters are flown in the cargo bay with other carriers, but Southwest allowed ‘Amelia’ to travel in a crate in the main cabin.”

The Magnificent Frigatebird is a soaring sea bird, normally found on the tropical waters of the Gulf, Atlantic or Pacific coasts. Large storms can cause native species to end up in odd locations. Magnificent Frigatebirds use their 7-foot wingspan to soar on the ocean breezes for hours, barely needing to flap their wings.

Zoo officials add that Amelia will now be cared for at a Wild Bird Sanctuary for later release on the coast of Florida.