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Rare visitor from Antarctica spotted

A photographer has captured a photo of a rare visitor to the island — a bird that flew more than 6,500 miles from the Antarctic.

Fisherman Kevin Winter photographed the south polar skua which he said was “feeding aggressively around the boat without fear”.

Skuas are the size of large gulls and feed by chasing migrating shearwaters and other birds and forcing them to regurgitate their food.

Mr Winter suggested that as there were no shearwaters around, the skua, from the South Shetland Islands off Antarctica, was hungry.

South polar skuas are rarely spotted in Bermuda and the sighting was particularly unusual as the bird was tagged on its leg. Mr Winter posted his find on eBird, a database for bird sightings. Andrew Dobson, president of the Bermuda Audubon Society, saw the photos and contacted seabird researchers in a bid to find out who tagged the bird.

Ben Raymond of the Australian Antarctic Division forwarded the enquiry to French researcher Yan Ropert-Coudert who passed the query on to colleagues in Europe.

Dr Hans-Ulrich Peter, head of the Polar and Bird Ecology Group at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, replied the bird had been tagged by his researchers.

He said: “This bird was banded by our group on 30th January 2017 as a non-breeding bird on Fildes Peninsula, King George Island”.

King George Island is part of the South Shetland Islands, just north of the Antarctic peninsula. Mr Dobson said: “This demonstrates the great value of citizen science in discovering how far some species travel and creating a pattern of distribution.

“The ever-increasing use of digital photography and growing interest in birding makes this all possible. The Bermuda Audubon Society is always willing to help with unusual bird identification.”

For more information about the society, visit www.audubon.bm.

Rare sight: a south polar skua was spotted in Bermuda recently. It was tagged on Fildes Peninsula, King George Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica, in January, 2017 (Photograph by Kevin Winter)

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Published May 29, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated May 29, 2018 at 8:30 am)

Rare visitor from Antarctica spotted

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