Birdwatchers flock to Mayo after rare heron is spotted

Yellow-crowned night heron, seen in Belcarra, near Castlebar, is believed to have got caught up in hurricane system off Florida coast

A quiet Co Mayo village has become a mecca for birdwatchers from all over the world following the arrival of a rare North American species there.

Much ornithological excitement, both international and local, has been generated by the sighting of a yellow-crowned night heron in trees alongside a popular roadside walk in Belcarra, near Castlebar.

According to Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland, it is the first sighting ever of the species in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

“It is a very special bird and this is a very special occasion indeed,” he said.

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“It is the first record of this bird in Ireland, which is remarkable, anywhere in the south Atlantic is remarkable.”

Mr Hatch explained that the species is usually only found in tropical areas of North America and South America.

He speculated that the visitor to Co Mayo may have got caught up in the hurricane system off the Florida coast and ended up here.

As described by Mr Hatch, yellow-crowned night herons are “a curious looking bird ... a large bird ... very spectacular-looking with a very long neck and flamboyant patterning of the head”.

The Belcarra sighting has sparked interest both nationally and internationally with scores of birdwatchers, armed with cameras and binoculars, descending on the village.

It is uncertain when the rare bird arrived in Belcarra. The birdwatching community only became aware of its presence on Sunday when a photograph was posted on Facebook.

Belcarra Community Council has welcomed the arrival of the unusual visitor noting that local tourism has already been boosted.

“We are delighted to see so many visitors coming here to see this beautiful bird which, it seems, is living happily right above our lovely riverside walk”, council chairman Fionnan Nestor commented.