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Rare Hummingbird's St. Paul Detour Causes Nat'l Buzz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A rare hummingbird found in St. Paul is caught in the middle of a national decision on where to send it.

A St. Paul resident found a rufous hummingbird in their backyard a few days before Monday's snowstorm.

"The homeowner was very concerned, knowing that the bird was really out of territory," said Phil Jenni, executive director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. "Typically we do not take healthy, adult animals."

The hummingbird is healthy, just a little lost. Rufous hummingbirds are from the Pacific Northwest and winter in Mexico. They are rarely found in Minnesota.

After a post on their Facebook page, the hummingbird started to receive local and national media attention.

"We're getting calls from all over the country," Jenni said. "Who would've thought, you know, that this little copper-throated bird would be creating all of this energy and attention?"

As of Thursday morning, the bird was booked to go on a private plane to Arizona where it would be picked up by wildlife officials.

But with more attention comes more scrutiny. The center is allowed to send animals to other centers to continue rehabilitation, but sending a healthy animal to be released into the wild is another issue.

There is some debate over whether the hummingbird migrates to Mexico through the Gulf, or the Southwest.

"Does it get shipped to Arizona? Can it go to the Gulf Coast? Or does it overwinter here?" Jenni said.

Releasing an animal into an area where they don't belong causes concern for disease and genetics.

People across the country were starting to direct their calls to U.S. Fish and Wildlife in Washington D.C.

"This has become a national issue. They want to make sure they've got it right. What kind of precedent [does] the U.S. Fish and Wildlife want to set?" Jenni said. "Hopefully soon we'll have a course of action."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife released a statement Friday saying they are working with partners to determine where the best place to send the hummingbird is based on migratory habits and the bird's health.

Additionally, they said while they understand the individual who captured the bird was likely acting with good intentions, the best thing for the bird is usually for it to be left alone.

Until they decide, the bird is being kept at a private rehabilitation center.

RAW VIDEO: Rare Hummingbird Found In St. Paul

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