26th April 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

‘Dream bird’ spotted at croft in West Side

Birdwatchers were all in a flutter yesterday after a rare sighting in the West Side.

The black-billed cuckoo, which hadn’t been seen in the isles since 1953, was identified at the croft in the Dale of Walls.

Spotter Rory Tallack said: “It’s a dream bird. It’s a bird that’s always on your radar but you just never expect to find one so I knew what it was straight away.”

The black-billed cuckoo has been spotted in Shetland for only the second time. Photo: Jim Nicolson

This is only the 15th time that the bird has been seen in the British Isles.

When breeding, the species is distributed across the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains. As it migrates to northwestern South America, it can be seen in the southern States and Central America in the Spring and Autumn.

The adult bird has a brown head and upperparts, with white underparts. It has a long, graduated brown tail and a black bill which is slightly downcurved.

Mr Tallack noticed it at 11.30am on Monday 18th September as it came out of a patch of Japanese knotweed before landing on a fence a few feet away.

After taking some pictures on his camera, he sent a message to other birdwatchers on WhatsApp to tell them about the sighting.

This triggered an excited reaction – with around 50 or 60 people making the trip to the site to see it for themselves.

However, there is likely to be a sad ending for the bird, which has not been seen again today.

“I think at least half of the UK ones have been found dead. Probably what happens is they come over here and they’re not used to the different food we have here so they die,” said Mr Tallack, who suggested exhausation would also be a factor after their journey across the Atlantic.

He added: “It probably won’t be the rarest bird we’ll get this year.”

In 1953, the black-billed cuckoo was spotted off Foula.

About Andrew McQuarrie

View other stories by »