A rare bird native to Africa has been spotted in Donegal. Climate change and the unusually mild weather in Donegal this year have been offered as explanations for the bird’s unexpected trip.
The bird was spotted on a pig farm near the village of St Johnston in northwest Ireland. The rare bird is a cattle egret and is native to Africa and Asia. Cattle egrets are thin, white birds with a couple of yellow feathers at the top of their head and yellow beaks. They generally ride on the backs of herd animals such as wildebeest.
The bird usually inhabits the plains of the tropics and subtropics in Africa and feeds on insects. The cattle egret is a migratory bird of the heron family and usually migrates to Iberia and North Africa during the winter. This is not the first sighting of the cattle egret in Ireland as the bird has previously migrated to southern counties Cork, Waterford, and Wexford in recent years.
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The bird’s migration to Donegal has excited many wildlife enthusiasts. Birdwatch Ireland development officer Niall Hatch said, “This is a very rare bird generally for Ireland but getting one as far north as Donegal is an exceptional occurrence.” Many birdwatchers are visiting Donegal to see the bird. People have snapped photos of the bird walking behind a pig.
This sighting is only the second recorded sighting of a cattle egret in Donegal. Hatch added, “This is an important sighting not only because it is such a rare bird in the overall Irish context, but when you see birds like this turning up in new areas, it is often a sign that something is changing. It would contribute more evidence towards theories behind climate change. Over time, a pattern does seem to be building up with this species.”