IN SAFE HANDS: Princess, a lesser frigatebird, was found in Armidale after the storms, and is now in the care of Australian Seabird Rescue at Ballina. It will be released once it recovers from exhaustion.
IN SAFE HANDS: Princess, a lesser frigatebird, was found in Armidale after the storms, and is now in the care of Australian Seabird Rescue at Ballina. It will be released once it recovers from exhaustion. Marc Stapelberg

Ballina volunteers nurse Princess to health after storms

IT WAS more than just people who had to be rescued as a result of the weekend's wild weather.

Australian Seabird Rescue in Ballina now has three coastal birds in its care, and they're expecting more marine life to come in.

"We had quite a few birds coming in over the weekend that were just exhausted from being washed up with the big swell that we had and the floods," general manager Kathrina Southwell said.

"We still haven't had any turtles that have come into care, which is quite unusual, but we're expecting this weekend, now that people will be returning to the beaches, that the turtles will come back."

The most unusual, and a first for Seabird Rescue, is a female lesser frigatebird, temporarily dubbed Princess.

"It's a lesser frigatebird and it was found in Armidale, which is way inland and you don't usually find frigatebirds anywhere that far inland," Ms Southwell said.

"But we think what happened is once the East Coast Low came in, it just got swept out inland and then was just totally exhausted.

"So she's had a quite an adventure."

Ms Southwell said frigatebirds were found all along the coastline and were known to steal other seabirds' food.

"The females, more so than the males, will actually dive down and make other seabirds that have just recently caught fish, regurgitate it ... and then they'll eat that regurgitated fish," she said.

The females have white underbellies and males have a distinctive red gular pouch, which they inflate during the breeding season to attract females.

Following the weekend storms, Australian Seabird Rescue also took in two pied cormorants, one found on Seven Mile Beach and one with a neck wound that Ms Southwell said was healing well.

She urged anyone who came across an animal on the beach that's in distress to phone Australian Seabird Rescue on 0428862852, particularly if it's a sea turtle which will only come on land if they're sick.

Seabird Rescue is a volunteer and community organisation that relies on donations. Visit www.seabirdrescue.org.