Celebrity bird rescued after Taiwan train adventure

A Siberian white crane waiting for food at the Jinshan wetland in New Taipei City on Dec 5, 2015.
A Siberian white crane waiting for food at the Jinshan wetland in New Taipei City on Dec 5, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (AFP) - A rare crane that has become a celebrity in Taiwan after getting lost on its journey from Siberia last year had to be rescued after a new misguided foray to a subway station.

The beautiful white bird had made wetlands in northern Taiwan its home for almost a year since last December, after taking a wrong turn on a migratory route from Siberia to China.

Separated from its flock, locals have welcomed the young Siberian crane - the farmer who owns the wetlands where the bird now lives has stopped using pesticides to ensure it can eat untainted food.

And it even has a security guard during daylight hours to protect it from stray dogs.

But on Thursday night (Dec 17), wanderlust gripped the crane once more - taking it at least 30km away to Songshan railway station in the north of the capital Taipei.

Passers-by and commuters were stunned when the tall, elegant bird landed outside the station and stayed there, seemingly unafraid of the crowds.

It was pictured standing on the street as two officials looked on.

After an emergency call to animal rescuers, it is now in a temporary shelter.

"It is not immediately clear why the crane left the sanctuary after staying there a whole year, surviving three typhoons," said conservationist Liao Jen-hui, who has been called in to deal with the bird's protection.

Liao said the crane had exhibited an unusually sociable streak after landing at the busy interchange station.

"Such birds are sensitive to people and would normally be watched from at least 200m away," she told AFP.

Experts from Taipei Zoo are checking the bird's health before the next step is decided.

The year-old male bird has become a tourist attraction, with fans travelling to the northern district of Jinshan to catch a glimpse, before it flew to Taipei.

The Siberian crane population has declined sharply to around 4,000 over the past century, Liao said, owing to hunting along their migration routes and habitat destruction.

The birds migrate annually from Siberia to China in winter, then fly back to Siberia when the weather warms.