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Rare bird lands on aircraft carrier

Flight operations on board the Royal Navy's helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious were interrupted when a rare cormorant decided to take advantage of its flight deck.

The bird, a socotra cormorant (phalacrocorax nigrogularis), which is a threatened species, landed on the warship as it was patrolling the Gulf as part of a major training exercise.

But the cormorant chose a moment to dry its feathers when the carrier was at flying stations and had to be gently coaxed to leave.

Leading Engineering Technician Robbie Roberts said: "We're used to clearing the deck of any items that might damage the helicopters before flying begins - nuts, bolts, keys, pens, not cormorants.

"It had a funny walk which I couldn't help copying. It didn't seem to mind and the deck hands had a good laugh. With a little bit of encouragement, we managed to get the bird to 'take off' so our more normal flying operations could resume."

It is not the first bird to have taken shelter on board the Portsmouth-based ship, which is nicknamed Lusty.

Last month a Eurasian scops owl was found cowering under the ship's crane on the flight deck while the ship was off the coast of Yemen. After it was fed and brought back to strength, it was able to continue its journey after a couple of days.

HMS Illustrious is the UK's high readiness amphibious assault carrier which is taking part in the multi-national Cougar 13 exercise which has been taking place in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, the Gulf, and Horn of Africa.

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