Manchester

Twitchers flock for pied-billed grebe sighting

Pied-billed grebe
Image caption The pied-billed grebe is usually found in ponds, lakes and marshes in southern and coastal areas of North America

Bird-watchers have been flocking to a Greater Manchester nature reserve for a sight of a rare North American species.

The pied-billed grebe was first spotted on Hollingworth Lake, Rochdale, last week but misidentified as a little grebe - a common British species.

It was later confirmed by an RSPB expert as the North American bird.

The bird is the first spotted on the UK mainland for eight years and is usually only seen in south-west England, said county bird recorder Judith Smith.

Interest in the pied-billed grebe is "immense", she added, with twitchers from around the country arriving at the lake to add it to their tally of sightings.

Experts believe the bird may have hitched a lift across the Atlantic on the back of a cruise or container ship.

'Like a submarine'

Hollingworth Lake, in Littleborough, is part of the estate belonging to water company United Utilities, which said it was expecting hundreds of visitors.

Chris Breen from United Utilities said: "You only get a sighting as rare as this very occasionally so it is extremely exciting.

"Unlike most species of grebes they are rarely found in flocks. If disturbed, they dive headfirst under water, or they sink slowly into the water until only their heads are above the water, like a submarine periscope.

"Even though it is thousands of miles from home it looks extremely hardy, so it should have everything it needs here at Hollingworth Lake. We are hoping it might stay for quite a while."

The pied-billed grebe is usually found in ponds, lakes and marshes in southern and coastal areas of North America.

The birds are usually 31 to 38cm (12 to 15ins) in length, with a wingspan of 45 to 62cm (18 to 24ins).

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