© Kory Renaud
It's easy to notice magnificent frigatebirds — their large black "M-shaped" wings, long beak and long straight tails cut quite a silhouette in the sky, and the males are known for puffing out a large red pouch at their throat to attract females.

When a birding enthusiast saw a frigatebird last Friday, she snapped several photos of the majestic bird and posted them on Facebook.

Had the birder been in Florida or Texas, it wouldn't have been noteworthy. But this ocean-going frigatebird was seen flying over

How the female frigatebird ended up hundreds of miles away from her native ocean habitat in the middle of Wisconsin is unknown, but it's a good bet she was blown up here by one of the hurricanes that slammed Texas and Florida.

Friday's sighting was only the fourth recorded in Wisconsin dating back to 1880 and the first in a decade.

Melanie Coulthurst photographed a magnificent frigatebird over Bluegill Bay Park in Wausau on Sept. 22, 2017.
Melanie Coulthurst photographed a magnificent frigatebird over Bluegill Bay Park in Wausau on Sept. 22, 2017.

"If there's a bird only been seen four times, it's pretty rare," said Ryan Brady, a Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist who publishes the statewide birding report. "This species is known for drifting into interior states especially when affiliated with storms, but it has to go pretty far to get to Wisconsin."

The news spread fast among birders in Wisconsin. Some headed out to look for it soon after Melanie Coulthurst posted her photos, but it wasn't seen again. On Saturday a frigatebird was glimpsed in Michigan's Mackinac Straits — whether it was the same one is unknown.

"That's the only hurricane-related bird that I'm aware of that's turned up in Wisconsin," said Tom Schultz, a Wisconsin Society of Ornithology board member and professional wildlife artist and illustrator. "They're great fliers, and they seem to cover an awful lot of ground. That's a bird I would love to see here."

Coulthurst likes to hike at Bluegill Bay Park in Wausau with her Canon camera around her neck, taking pictures of birds, bugs and whatever catches her eye. About 9 a.m. Friday she saw some birds flying high in the distance and snapped a couple dozen pictures with her 400mm lens. She noticed one bird in particular.

"I Googled 'scissors-tailed gull or tern' and I couldn't find anything," Coulthurst said Monday. So she texted a picture to her brother, an avid birder in Madison.

"She said this is an unusual bird, what is it? I almost dropped. I know birds pretty well. I thought 'Oh my God, that's a magnificent frigatebird,' " her brother Stephen Lang said.

Coulthurst wondered why her brother was hyperventilating.

"He couldn't hardly contain himself. He said Friday was the best most exciting day of his life," Coulthurst said.

Birders frequently keep lists of bird species and folks who keep track of the birds they see in one geographical area would jump at the chance of adding a frigatebird to their Wisconsin list.

Bob Domagalski, who keeps track of rare bird records for the WSO, has seen them in Florida's Dry Tortugas but not here. He has 376 bird species on his Wisconsin list.

"I think not only birders in Wisconsin but birders all across the Midwest would love to add the frigatebird to their state list," Domagalski said.

A magnificent frigatebird carcass was found in Milwaukee County in August 1880 and is now in the Milwaukee Public Museum collection. Live sightings were recorded in Douglas County in September 1988 and Door County in October 2007.

Mark Korducki got a text on Friday from a friend who had just seen the Facebook posting. Korducki writes the WSO's rare bird report.

"Every month we do a breakdown of unusual birds. This will definitely be the highlight of the month for the most unusual bird seen in the state," said Korducki, whose Wisconsin bird list numbers 387, one of the highest in the state, but does not include the frigatebird.

The lucky person who sighted the frigatebird, however, has never recorded the bird species she's seen. Coulthurst doesn't keep a state bird list.

The fate of the frigatebird seen in Wausau is unknown. Optimistic bird enthusiasts think she might find the St. Lawrence Seaway and find her way out to the ocean, or possibly reorient her internal GPS and head south. The pessimists aren't sure she'll survive.

"That's the sad part of the story," Brady said. "When you get any kind of ocean bird, they do seem to struggle to find the food they need up here. We don't have squid, we don't have jellyfish, the types of things they eat out on the ocean."