Birdwatchers have been flocking to a Lancashire nature reserved in recent weeks, hoping to catch a glimpse of a rare bird that has only been seen a handful of times in the UK in the last 100 years.

A belted kingfisher has been spotted at Brockholes Nature Reserve in Preston and The Lancashire Wildlife Trust reserve has seen an increase in visitors keen to spot the bird for themselves.

The bird is generally only found on inland lakes in the United States and Canada.

It is believed to be only the fourth time the bird has been spotted in the United Kingdom – the last sighting was in Staffordshire in 2005, but one was seen in Ireland over the past couple of years.

The bird was initially seen by fisherman and birder George Shannon on the River Ribble near Samlesbury, before it flew onto the nature reserve where it has been spotted by several local birders.

Lancashire Telegraph: Belted kingfisher on the River Ribble (Photo: George Shannon)Belted kingfisher on the River Ribble (Photo: George Shannon)

George said: “I was fishing close to Redscar Woods when I heard a very loud but unfamiliar rattling croaky call.

“I looked round and watched a slate blue and white bird flying upstream towards me about 10ft above the centre of the river. It proceeded to land in dead trees directly opposite where I was sitting.

“I got my bins on it and genuinely couldn’t believe the image I was seeing. I thought ‘it’s a Belted Kingfisher but it can’t possibly be a belted kingfisher.’ My heart was literally pounding out of my chest.

“The bird sat partially obscured on a dead branch, directly opposite where I sat for about a minute, bobbing and twitching around before moving even closer to me and in plain sight. It was a stunning  belted kingfisher.

“Jet black crest and very heavy sturdy looking black bill, the slate coloured uppers were so brightly contrasted against the white of the body.”

George believes the bird may be the one that was spotted in Ireland a couple of years ago.

The  belted kingfisher is bigger than our kingfishers, it has a dark blue head, with a  white collar, a large blue band on its chest and is white underneath. Its back and wings are blue-black. Its most prominent feature is the shaggy crest on its head.

It is found across most of North America but it does migrate into the southern states, Mexico, and the Caribbean in winter. It has been seen in Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal as well as the UK.

Lancashire Telegraph: A belted kingfisher perched at the top of a tree in the USA (Photo:Unsplash/Joshua J. Cotten)A belted kingfisher perched at the top of a tree in the USA (Photo:Unsplash/Joshua J. Cotten)

Any birders hoping to spot the belted kingfisher over the festive season might be in luck as there is a good chance that the bird will remain in the area throughout winter if it likes the conditions.

A spokesperson for Brockholes Nature Reserve said: “Although this is very exciting and we understand many of you will want to catch a glimpse of this rare bird, we urge everyone to use caution when trying to access this section of the river and encourage all our visitors to keep to the paths.

“We hope this special bird will stay around Brockholes for the winter and there will be many opportunities for safe sightings.”


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