Brown Booby: A historic landing in La Crosse brings birdwatchers together

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — The birding community is a flutter over the sighting of a seabird thousands of miles from its home. The brown booby landed in Wisconsin for the first time in history.

Everyone wants to find a place they belong.

“We would be the only people of color at the events and we never saw people of color leading the events,” said Dexter Patterson, a faculty associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For Patterson that meant building an inclusive birdwatching community.

“They see everybody of all walks of life. You know, from grandmothers age 84 to children,” he said.

Patterson co-founded the BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin.

“Birders look like you. Birding is for everyone,” Patterson said.

His passion for birding brought him to La Crosse, Wisconsin, where someone else was trying to find a place to belong.

“What are you doing here dude, right? Like that’s kind of what I was saying,” Patterson said about the brown booby.

For the first time in history, the brown booby landed in Wisconsin.

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” said Alan Stankevitz, a birdwatcher.

The brown booby get its name from Spanish explorers. The bird would land on ships, and didn’t fear humans.

“So they called it a stupid bird, a Bobo. And that’s how the booby got its name,” Stankevitz said.

The brown booby is often found in tropical climates, including Mexico and the Caribbean.

“It’s definitely really lost, that’s for sure,” Patterson said.

The booby’s lack of navigation has brought an entire community together.

“I’m hoping to meet some Wisconsin birders and see how stoked they are about this,” William Brooks, a California resident said.

The rarity is bringing people together who sometimes feel out of place— together.

“There are so many different types of people and there are so many different types of birds,” Kelli Bahls, who drove two hours from Oshkosh to see the brown booby, said.

People are hoping to catch a glimpse of this Midwestern stranger, who like them, just wants to feel at home.

Birdwatchers say there is no reason to worry about the booby. Once it realizes a Wisconsin winter is approaching, it’ll return back to a warmer place.