Science

Rare white-throated needletail bird killed by wind turbine as onlookers watch

By James Maynard , Jun 29, 2013 07:57 PM EDT
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A rare white-throated needletail bird was killed by a wind turbine in Scotland on June 26, as horrified birdwatchers looked on. This species, also known as the Needle-tailed swift or spine-tailed swift, is the fastest-flying bird in the world. It has only been seen eight times in the United Kingdom in the last 170 years.

Two birdwatchers from Northumberland, England, the northernmost county on the island nation, first spotted the bird on June 24. It is believed that the animal likely came from Siberia.

"Once the news was spread... many birders started preparing for the long journey north in the hope of catching up with the bird. Unfortunately, after showing very well to the delight of all present... it was seen to hit the blade of a small wind turbine in Tarbert and was killed. A very sad end to a delightful bird that may well have attracted many more birders to Harris over the following days had it not met its untimely demise." Steve Duffield, Western Isles wildlife expert, said.

Around 80 birdwatchers came out to see the swift-flying bird on the isle of Harris, a mountainous island in the Outer Hebrides, off the coast of Scotland. When the bird flew to Tarbert, a Scottish village, the bird flew into a wind turbine, which instantly killing the swift-flying avian. About 40 onlookers were there to watch the bird when it unexpectedly perished.

"It was seen by birders fly straight into the turbine. It is ironic that after waiting so long for this bird to turn up in the U.K., it was killed by a wind turbine and not a natural predator. It is tragic. More than 80 people had already arrived on the island and others were coming from all over the country. But it just flew into the turbine. It was killed instantly," Josh Jones of Bird Guides said.

The first spotting of the species in the UK was in 1846, when a single individual of the species was spotted in Essex. The last time a white-throated needletail was spotted in the U.K. was in 1991. At that time, a one member of the species was seen four times - in Kent, Straffordshire, Derbyshire and Shetland. The birds can attain confirmed speeds of nearly 70 MP in flight although some birdwatchers claim to have clocked members of the species traveling up to 105 MPH.

It is still unknown why the bird was so far from its normal habitat, which extends from Siberia to Japan and Australia. The body has been sent to a museum for display in order to raise awareness about the animal.

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