Thousands of bird watchers have been descending on Pagham Harbour to catch a glimpse of a rare North American visitor.
A single elegant tern has been delighting visitors to Church Norton since it ‘terned up’ on Saturday.
The elegant tern is a near threatened species and its arrival at the RSPB Nature Reserve is believed to be the first ever sighting in the UK.
So far more than 2,500 people have been to see it.
“Our staff and volunteers have completed a lot of improvement works to tern habitats at the reserve in the last few years,” said Roy Newnham, visitor experience officer at the RSPB’s Pagham Harbour.
“As a result, we have increased our colonies of common and little terns, making this one of the best breeding grounds for the species in the South East.
“We were not expecting such an unusual visitor to be attracted to the site as a result though, and will be interested to see if it sticks around.”
The bird’s tag shows it was likely to have been part of a colony of sandwich terns in France, and with sandwich terns currently at Church Norton, it is even hoped it may mate.
A RSPB spokesman said: “They have been known to mate with sandwich terns so it’s possible it may have come over with this colony to do that, it is displaying mating behaviour.”
The aptly-named elegant tern is near threatened and is normally found in America or Mexico during the summer months.
Around 1,000 visitors came down on Sunday alone just to catch a glimpse of it.
The habitat restoration work undertaken at the RSPB reserve has been part of a wider UK effort to save threatened little and roseate tern populations from becoming extinct, and has been funded by the EU LIFE+ Nature Little Tern Recovery Project.
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