Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

'Hip' birds are a hit in the city

By Ross McKee
BBC News

Bohemian Waxwing (Picture by Anthony McGeehan)
The Bohemian Waxwing has been spotted in Northern Ireland

A gang of cool customers has been causing a stir among Northern Ireland's birdwatchers.

Fresh from Siberia, the Bohemian Waxwings caught the eye of a number of admirers at the Lagan towpath in south Belfast over the weekend.

The waxwings migrate in flocks from their breeding ground in the vast forests known as the Taiga, when the population gets too large for the food available.

Kendrew Colhoun of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds explained their love of red berries could mean twitchers getting a closer look at these colourful characters in their own gardens.

"They are a strikingly different looking bird," he said. "They have a light brown/grey body, are quite plump and not unlike a starling.

"They have got a crest on top and a black beard. They look like they are wearing dark glasses.

"They also have yellow and red on their wings which looks like a waxy substance.

"They are hip and a bit more groovy.

"People could see them in their garden and they should keep an eye out. Anywhere were there are shrubs and trees bearing red berries there is a chance of seeing them."

Mr Colhoun said there had been "quite a number of observations" of the waxwings across the island of Ireland recently.

Cold temperatures

He added that cold temperatures in central Europe and Britain were the likeliest reason for the bird's arrival in Northern Ireland.

"The harsher the weather is in central Europe, the more likely they are to arrive in Northern Ireland," he said.

"They can't go further west than us or they will be in the ocean.

"They do hit the east coast of Scotland and England. "We usually get numbers less than this.

"If we get a lot, it is a sign there has been a cold snap across Britain and they have pushed further west."

Bird lovers should also move quickly, for like most cool customers, this gang will not be hanging around for ever.

"This trans-continental trip is at its far end, they will be thinking of heading east soon," Mr Colhoun added.

"They will be getting back to their breeding ground in Eastern Europe in April/May."

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