A yellow-crowned night heron has been spotted in Belcarra, Co Mayo, in what is believed to be the North American bird's first sighting in Ireland or the UK.

The bird was first spotted in Belcarra by local woman Lorraine Ryan Jennings, according to Western People.

"There is a VIP visitor in the village at the moment, and they are the cause of great excitement amongst the Birdwatching community," the village of Belcarra said in a social media blast on Monday, May 27.

"The visitor is a 'Yellow crowned night heron', and this is the first sighting on Mainland Europe."

Sharing photos taken by local woman Geraldine Nee, Belcarra officially welcomed the heron and also extended a céad míle fáilte to the many birdwatchers who have descended on the village.

It's unclear as to when the yellow-crowned night heron arrived in Co Mayo, but it is nevertheless being described as "extraordinary" by experts.

Eric Dempsey of Birds Ireland Photography told RTE's Morning Ireland on Tuesday: "To get a context of what this sighting means, there has only been one previous European record and that was in Portugal.

"There's been some seen on the Azores, out in the middle of the Atlantic.

"So, the fact that this bird has crossed the Atlantic and somehow has found its way into this beautiful little village of Belcarra where it has been welcomed by the locals and is feeding on crayfish on the river, it's an extraordinary thing."

Dempsey added: "Chances are it was blown across the Atlantic last autumn.

"Last autumn saw a series of hurricanes. This possibly is to do with the changing of the temperatures of the water in the Atlantic, it's increasing the number of hurricanes.

"The hurricanes will go up along the east coast of the United States and they will often sweep up migrating birds from North America that are traveling from southeast Canada towards say Florida or Cuba and they will bring them across the Atlantic in a big tropical storm.

"We had a series of storms last year that deposited many migrants from America on our shores.

"The chances are this bird was among that fall and basically has survived the winter and has found a little niche for itself in Belcarra.

"The sad thing is, it will never, ever get back across the Atlantic."

When asked if there's anything that can be done to help the heron, Dempsey said: "It doesn't need help, it's okay. And it's just one of those things that happens on occasions.

"There is a good population of them in the United States so it doesn't need to be repatriated.

"It's okay, it's fine, it's doing well. It won't mate, but perhaps, genetically, that's a good thing. If it got blown off course, it may not have been the strongest bird,. so its genes will not pass on, and that's the  way nature is."

Dempsey, who acknowledged how great it is that everyone is appreciating the heron's arrival in Co Mayo, added: "It's the coolest bird you'll ever meet, it doesn't scare at all.

"People have been getting point-blank views of it and the great thing is there's a lovely river walk there and it's cordoned off, so the bird cannot be disturbed."

Still, Dempsey advised people hoping to see the bird to give it space.

Fionnan Nestor, Chairperson of the Belcarra Community, told Western People: “We are so pleased to see so many people coming into the village to see the bird.

"This beautiful bird is living right above our riverside walk and we are delighted to be able to showcase this part of our village to all the visitors coming in.”