Birders are aflutter about the presence of a rarely seen bird and are flocking to New Westminster to take a look.
A red-flanked bluetail has been spotted in Queen's Park - the first time the bird has been seen in Canada.
"The mood is absolute jubilation. People are high-fiving, whooping - not to scare the bird, huge grins on their faces, pumping their fists like they
scored a goal in a World Cup game," said Burnaby resident George Clulow. "For birders, this is about as exciting as it gets."
In addition to having never been seen before in Canada, Clulow noted that there have only been two other sightings of the red-flanked bluetail on the mainland of North America. Birders from Kelowna, Victoria and Everett, Washington have already travelled to town to view the bird.
"If you rush down to Queen's Park right now, you can find one of the rarest birds ever to show up in Canada," Clulow wrote on the Outdoors - Birds, Nature and Parks blog on Monday. "In fact, the red-flanked bluetail has never been seen before in Canada until yesterday. A single bird like this usually results in a flock of birders coming to see it. And they were arriving from around the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley in flocks this morning."
Clulow expects visitors from across the continent to arrive in the days ahead to see this "ultra rarity" that's a "mega sighting" for local birders.
"This will have people flooding in from around the continent," he told The Record. "Some people book flights right away."
Clulow said the bird looks extremely healthy and is finding lots to eat in Queen's Park.
"It is actively feeding," he said. "You can see it catching insects. A lot of these insects are hiding in crevices. They are in their winter state."
According to Clulow, the red-flanked bluetail is a widely distributed bird right across northern Asia. A forest bird, it's found a habitat that is "fairly typical" of its normal winter habitat.
Noting that the red-flanked bluetails are "fairly long-distance migrants," Clulow said it appears this bird migrated southeast instead of southwest.
"It would normally be in more southerly parts of Asia," he said. "It winters in south China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Sumatra and Java."
Clulow said it's suspected that the bird is a male, based on the state of its plumage.
"This bird is a first-year bird," he said. "It was born in 2012. It's typical these birds that get way off course are first-year birds."
While it may be young, the bird seems to have adjusted to its new surroundings just fine.
"It may have been there for some time," Clulow noted. "It seems to have a regular circuit that it forages around."
A report on the B.C. Rare Bird Alert website states that the red-flanked bluetail was found Jan. 13 by Colin McKenzie, and later confirmed by Clulow and Mike Toochin. Both Clulow and Toochin have previously seen the red-flanked bluetail in Asia and were able to confirm its identity.
"I think this is the first record for Canada of this bird," wrote Tom McKenzie on the B.C. Rare Bird Alert website. "It is related to a European robin, but it is probably closest in appearance among European birds to an Eastern bluebird."