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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 17:44 GMT 18:44 UK
Twitchers glee over rare visitors
Bee eaters
Bee eaters are native to Southern Europe
A pair of birds, native to the Mediterranean, have made their home in Britain for only the second time in 50 years.

Bird watchers in County Durham are clamouring for a glimpse of the bee eaters that have taken residence in a limestone quarry.

Experts hope the pair - which usually make their home in temperate and tropical climates - are a male and female.

It would make them the first nesting pair on these shores since a pair bred in East Sussex five decades ago.

Bee eaters: facts
There are 26 species of bee eater
The bee eater catches bees and other insects on the wing
In the Gambia, West Africa, their name means "cousin to the fire" because of their attraction to bushfires
They don't usually like the UK, because they are "birds of the sun"

Mark Richardson, of the Durham Wildlife Trust, said: "We are not sure whether we have a female and a male or whether they are the same sex.

"It is very difficult to tell the sex. The plumage is almost identical.

"What we can say is that someone has seen one of the birds bringing food to the other which might indicate they are a pair."

Birdwatcher Doreen Goldsmith said the birds had been in the area for more than a week.

She is convinced they are nesting and says the birds have been investigating nooks and crannies in the quarry wall.

Ms Goldsmith said: "We have seen them mating, which was pretty fantastic.

"They have been here for more than a week that we know of, and from what people are saying, there's a distinct possibility they are breeding otherwise they would have gone by now."

See also:

14 May 02 | England
11 May 02 | Wales
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