The bittern, a bird not seen in Ireland in 150 years has returned to breed there according to birdwatchers.

Three have been spotted in County Wexford, driven there from France say the experts by the freezing weather on the continent.

A leading ornithologist told the Irish Times that the arrival o f the birds was  “an incredibly exciting development”.

Niall Hatch, development officer with Birdwatch Ireland, said: “This is tremendously exciting news because bitterns became extinct here in the mid-19th century. At least three have been spotted in reed beds at Lake Tacumshane, but there could be many more because it’s very difficult to spot them as they are so secretive.

“When they are frightened or startled they point their beak up to the sky, which camouflages them perfectly because their beak resembles a reed bed.

“There’s a small number of them in the UK, but I think the most likely scenario is that they came here to take refuge from the freezing temperatures in France and ended up in Ireland because it’s the last-ditch westerly land mass for them to escape to. It’s a unique experience, but more could follow and they may stay here and start breeding.”