Page last updated at 10:35 GMT, Sunday, 8 November 2009

Twitchers flock to see rare bird

Wilson's Phalarope at Slimbridge
The Wilson's Phalarope normally winters in South America

A bird which is a very rare visitor to the UK has been spotted at a nature reserve in Gloucestershire.

The Wilson's phalarope was seen feeding among ducks on the River Severn at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in Slimbridge on Saturday.

The bird is common in Canada where it breeds but only tends to be spotted in the UK when there has been stormy weather and it has lost its course.

Slimbridge WWT has put out a rare bird alert and expects hundreds of visitors.

'Extremely exciting'

There have only been three recorded sightings of the creature in Gloucestershire and it is only seen in the UK once or twice each year.

Slimbridge reserve warden, James Lees, said: "You only get a sighting as rare as this very occasionally so it is extremely exciting.

"It is an interesting bird, which eats small insects off the top of water. Unlike most wading birds it moves very quickly and spins around while it tries to find food. Its plumage is quite colourful in the summer but grey at this time of year.

"Even though it is thousands of miles from home it is an extremely hardy bird which feeds offshore, so it should have everything it needs at Slimbridge. We are hoping it might stay for quite a while."

The bird usually migrates to the central Andes in South America but wardens believe this one has been blown thousands of miles off its migratory route by strong south westerly winds.

It is named after the American ornithologist Alexander Wilson.



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