The rare bird that attracted hundreds to West Point Lake this week has died.
David Barr, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ranger at the lake, said the Ivory Gull died Friday evening. The bird, which is typically found in the Arctic-area, has been secured by rangers and is now in a cooler awaiting pick up by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contacted us and requested once the bird did pass we retain it so they could do basically an autopsy of the bird and determine what kind of illness it had and try and determine how it got down here," Barr said.
He said during the week between 100 and 150 people came from all over to catch a glimpse of a bird that had made its way so far south it had set records. The only other sighting in the southeast was in Tennessee in 1996, and its southernmost spotting until Monday was in Orange County, Calif., also in 1996.
Toward the end of the week, though, the bird was weak and wasn't eating. Birders, who visited the area, also said the gull had a broken wing.
Jeff Sewell, a lifelong bird watcher who operates the Georgia Rare Bird Alert and visited West Point Lake this week, said somewhere between 6 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. Friday the gull had gotten a broken wing.
"There was rumor going around a Bald Eagle had attacked it," he said, adding the information could not be confirmed, but wouldn't be unusual.
Walt Chambers, who was the first to spot the Ivory Gull on Monday, said via e-mail the incident is sad since this weekend would have been the first time many would have had the opportunity to see the bird.
He added the fact that the gull died unfortunately wasn't surprising. Since the bird was so far from its usual habitat, and typical food sources, it's survival rate was low.