Mistaken bird spotters in Scarborough fear penguins have made freedom bid

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Bird spotters have been jamming phone lines at a sanctuary in Scarborough worried their penguins may have made a bid for freedom but happily it seems it is just a case of mistaken identity.

Beach walkers contacted Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary to check if any of its resident Humboldt penguins had escaped - after seeing penguin-like birds floating offshore.

“Happily it’s just a case of mistaken identity,” explained Todd German, senior aquarist at the centre.

He said it was a mistake that has been made before saying: “We get a few calls every year from people mistaking razorbills and guillemots for their flightless cousins from the southern hemisphere.

“This year we’ve been more than usually inundated because of exceptionally large numbers of ‘little auks’ appearing close to shore on their migration from the Arctic down to wintering grounds in the North Atlantic.

“Though not much bigger than a starling, the little auk looks even more like a penguin, especially if viewed from a distance and its size isn’t obvious,” he added.

“They usually pass our shores a long way out to sea, but winter gales have brought them closer in this winter.”