Rare kingfisher spotted in UK for only the fourth time in a CENTURY

Twitter meltdown! Rare kingfisher is spotted in the UK for only the fourth time in a CENTURY

  • Belted kingfisher was spotted in the River Ribble near Preston in Lancashire 
  • It is normally a native of Florida but was seen at the Brockholes nature reserve 
  • Last seen in Staffordshire and Aberdeenshire in 2005 and in Cornwall in 1980

Birdwatchers have been left ‘shaking with excitement’ after seeing a rare bird that has been spotted for only the fourth time in the UK in more than a century.

Twitchers have been wading into the River Ribble to try to catch a glimpse of the belted kingfisher.

The bird is normally a native of Florida, but was seen on the banks of the river at Brockholes nature reserve near Preston, Lancashire, on Thursday.

It has been spotted only three times in the UK since 1908, with previous sightings in Cornwall in 1979-1980, and Staffordshire and Aberdeenshire in 2005. 

Unlike the UK’s common kingfisher, the belted variety has a distinctive white band around its neck.

Morgan Caygill, a birder based in Otley, West Yorkshire, tweeted yesterday: ‘Belted kingfisher still on the Ribble this morning, shaking with excitement.’

The belted kingfisher was first seen at the site on November 8 with a common kingfisher, but then disappeared until Thursday.

The belted kingfisher (pictured) has been spotted on the River Ribble near Preston in Lancashire

The Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trusts warned bird enthusiasts to exercise extreme caution and said in a statement: ‘Although this is very exciting and we understand many of you will want to catch a glimpse of this rare bird, we urge everyone to use caution when trying to access this section of the river and encourage all our visitors to keep to the paths.

‘We hope this special bird will stay around Brockholes for the winter and there will be many opportunities for safe sightings.’

George Shannon, of Whittle-le-Woods, was fishing upstream from Brockholes nature reserve near Preston, Lancashire when he saw the incredible sight.

Mr Shannon said: ‘I genuinely couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

‘I just stared at the bird through my binoculars running every possible scenario through my head of if it was an escapee or had I definitely got the ID correct; there really isn’t anything else it could be but I knew how rare it was.

‘I started uncontrollably shaking and fumbling to get my phone from my pocket to get some pics and that’s what caused the bird to fly some 50 metres further upstream,’ he told Blog Preston.

The belted kingfisher (pictured top) was first seen at the site on November 8 with a common kingfisher (pictured bottom), but then disappeared until Thursday 

Birdwatcher Colin Davies, of York, said that the first sighting earlier in the month had led to scepticism in the birding community with some suggesting the rare bird was in fact just a great tit.

Mr Davies said: ‘Before today the only photo that I had seen was by the original finder and was so poor as to be considered a great tit by some commentators.

‘At times this bird seemed nearly as dodgy and elusive as Father Christmas, so when it was reported again today, the first sighting in 11 days, I almost didn’t bother going such was my scepticism. 

‘However thank goodness I did go, because this was certainly no great tit!’

Males of the species have one blue band across the white breast, while females have a blue and a chestnut band.

The Belted Kingfisher is one of the few bird species in which the female is more brightly coloured than the male.

They weigh between 140-170 grams, are slate blue, and eat fish, shrimp, tadpoles and insects. Their tails are stubby and their legs are very short.

A fossil of a belted kingfisher has been found dating back two million years in Florida.

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