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Twitchers spot extremely rare ‘Butcher bird’ in Rottingdean
11:00am Thursday 5th September 2013 in News
A rare bird spotted in Sussex just three times in four years has been sighted in Rottingdean.
The red-backed shrike has been spotted by eagle-eyed bird watchers in Blazehill Road.
The spotted bird, slightly larger but slimmer than a house sparrows, is red in colour with a black stripe across its face, through the eye.
Known as the Butcher bird for its hunting abilities, the red-backed shrike’s numbers have been falling in Britain since 1970.
Its dramatic decline to virtual extinction as a UK breeding species means the bird has been Red Listed – the highest conservation priority.
Unsurprisingly the appearance by the bird has excited twitchers.
Writing on the Sussex Ornithological Survey website on Tuesday, Luke Dray, Jake Gearty and Jamie Wilkinson commented: “The red-backed shrike performed fantastically throughout the day and even better in the evening.”
On Monday Alan Kitson added: “What an obliging bird, perched along a fence on the Downs-side of Rottingdean, and living up to its name with its back really quite red even at this young age.”
David Howey, recorder for the SOS, said: “The bird is pretty rare in Sussex.
“There was one sighted last year, none in 2011 and one in 2010.
“Only 30 have been seen in Sussex this century.
“The bird bred regularly in Sussex before 1920, but it last bred in Sussex in 1968.”
Sam Stokes from the RSPB in the south east said: “They are quite striking.
“They’re not found in the UK a great deal, they’re pretty much extinct as a breeding bird.
“They're usually spotted in spring and autumn when passing through on migration and are going south for the winter this time of year.
“You don’t expect to see them that often but this would be the time of year if you do.
“They have quite an unusual behaviour in that when they catch their prey they impale it on a thorn or wedge it in the gap of a forking tree, in a sort of larder.
“It is quite an interesting bird and one people do keep an eye out for at this time of year.”
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