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Green energy slaughter: Bird watchers flocking to see rare bird see it killed by wind turbine

July 01, 2013
TOPICS: In the news
Scores of bird watchers flocked to the Outer Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland to see a bird that has been recorded just eight times previously in the United Kingdom in nearly 170 years — only to see it slain by a wind turbine.

The White-throated Needletail — the world's fastest flying bird — was thousands of miles off course after turning up on the Isle of Harris.

It was first seen by two bird spotters on Monday. There has not been a sighting of the species in Britain since 1991 when a single bird was seen four times.

Now 22 years later another White-throated Needletail turned up in the U.K., but after more than 80 twitchers, or bird watchers, flocked to Harris — with scores more on their way — the bird flew into a wind turbine at Tarbert, witnessed by around 40 people.

Josh Jones of Bird Guides said: “It was seen by birders fly straight into the turbine. It is ironic that after waiting so long for this bird to turn up in the U.K., it was killed by a wind turbine and not a natural predator.

“It is tragic. More than 80 people had already arrived on the island and others were coming from all over the country. But it just flew into the turbine. It was killed instantly.”

He added: “The corpse will be sent to a museum but obviously this is just terrible. Some people will have lost the cost of their flights. We think the bird had probably come from Siberia. It is so sad what has happened.”

Western Isles wildlife expert Steve Duffield said: "The bird in Harris was hanging around for its third day — it was attracting a lot of attention from the birding community with people travelling from southern England to see it."

“Once the news was spread on the evening, many birders started preparing for the long journey north in the hope of catching up with the bird,” said Duffield. “Unfortunately after showing very well to the delight of all present yesterday — probably around 40 people in the morning with others arriving in the afternoon — it was seen to hit the blade of a small wind turbine in Tarbert and was killed.

“A very sad end to a delightful bird that may well have attracted many more birders to Harris over the following days had it not met it's untimely demise.”

A spokesman for Bird Guides said it was only the ninth recording in the U.K. since 1846 when it was first seen in Essex.

“Why it is has ended up in Harris is a bit of a mystery — it should be well away such as in Siberia, Australia or Japan,” he said.

“It has obviously got lost and the weather may have played a part — it is difficult to say.

He added: “It could have re-orientated itself and is capable of flying vast distances — in fact it spends more time in the air than on the ground. So it could have worked out it's in the wrong place and fly to where it should be.”
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