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Bird that stopped Bellagio fountain show relocated to remote location

Updated March 6, 2024 - 10:01 am

Tourists circled the Las Vegas Strip’s impressive Fountains of Bellagio on Tuesday, taking selfies against the lush background of the resort.

What they didn’t know was that they may have gotten an exclusive photo with Las Vegas’ hottest new celebrity — the yellow-billed loon, a migratory bird that has taken up residence in the property’s crystal blue waters.

After learning about the situation, MGM Resorts International briefly put its famous fountain show on pause while officials figured out how to proceed, a spokesperson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The Nevada Department of Wildlife captured the bird early Wednesday and relocated it to a more remote location where officials hope it will continue its migration.

The National Park Service considers the species to be one of the 10 rarest birds that breed on the mainland of the United States, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed it as “near threatened,” meaning it could be vulnerable to endangerment in the future.

“We are happy to welcome the most exclusive guests,” the Bellagio posted on X on Tuesday afternoon. “The Fountains of Bellagio are paused as we work with state wildlife officials to rescue a Yellow-billed loon … that has found comfort on Las Vegas’ own Lake Bellagio.”

An MGM spokesman said the show had been cleared to resume Tuesday night after wildlife officials determined that the bird was unbothered by the gushing water, but later said the show would not take place on Tuesday, after all.

Step in or leave it be?

The loon, which normally makes its home in the Arctic and along the coast of the northern Pacific Ocean, has ruffled more than a few feathers.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife’s Southern Nevada office has fielded calls for the past few days from concerned birders who requested that the agency intervene, spokesperson Doug Nielsen said.

However, rather than agitate the bird, Nielsen said the plan is to monitor the situation and hope that the bird moves on after realizing it needs a more regular food source. It’s not uncommon for migratory birds to blow into the valley for a Vegas vacation, he said, and this waterbird was probably seeking shelter from a storm.

“It’s not something that happens every day,” Nielsen said. “It’s a rare thing that we deal with once in a while.”

A rescue mission became necessary Wednesday morning, he said, and the new location is far off the Strip where the bird will have more access to food and continue its migration when it’s ready.

Early photos on social media place the bird at the Henderson Bird Preserve on Feb. 26, later flying west to claim its new home. The Review-Journal saw it Tuesday at the Bellagio.

UNLV professor Donald Price, who studies how winged animal species adapt to different environments, said climate change has altered bird migration patterns, sometimes confusing the biological clock in different migratory birds.

Having a loon come to the valley is highly unusual, he said.

“Some species appear to be able to tolerate humans or hang out around human environments, and some cannot,” Price said. “I was surprised a loon would do this.”

Contact Alan Halaly at ahalaly@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlanHalaly on X.

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