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Blindy gets airborne, and brings hope for New Zealand penguins

Shireen Helps tosses Blindy into a pond in Flea Bay, New Zealand. For a few moments, the flightless bird is airborne.
Shireen Helps tosses Blindy into a pond in Flea Bay, New Zealand. For a few moments, the flightless bird is airborne.
Published Feb. 24, 2016

FLEA BAY, New Zealand — Blindy the little blue penguin was born without functioning eyes and developed the unusual habit of swimming in tight circles.

So to prevent the bird from continually crashing into the side of the small pond where it swims, Shireen Helps began tossing it out into deeper water. Penguins are flightless but Blindy, for a few moments anyway, gets to be airborne.

Blindy lives in New Zealand's Flea Bay, home to three humans and more than 2,500 penguins. Efforts by the Helps family over more than three decades helped save the bay's penguins from predators while many nearby colonies were wiped out.

Blindy, who is about 12 weeks old, was from a nearby colony and was found by a local farmer after it had left its nest and gotten lost in a creek.

Helps said Blindy was born with a malformed head and beak, making it hard to tell if it's male or female.

She said at first its circling antics seemed to make the penguin disorientated but now it's swimming more confidently.

"If it gets dizzy going around one way, it changes direction and goes around the other way," she said. "So it's really learning very well."

She said the penguin is too disabled to be returned to the wild, but she hopes that a zoo might take it.

Although penguins are seabirds, they can also live in fresh water and often do so in zoos.