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First sighting: Rare tropical brown booby pays us a visit

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Good health: The brown booby spotted in Greystones, Co Wicklow, yesterday. Photo: Nick Bradshaw

Good health: The brown booby spotted in Greystones, Co Wicklow, yesterday. Photo: Nick Bradshaw

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Good health: The brown booby spotted in Greystones, Co Wicklow, yesterday. Photo: Nick Bradshaw

A brown booby has stoked excitement among bird lovers in Co Wicklow after Ireland's first sighting of the tropical seabird.

The large bird, which is usually found only in tropical areas of the Atlantic Ocean like Central America and East Africa, was spotted yesterday afternoon in Greystones in what is believed to be the species' first documented visit to Ireland.

In 2016 a brown booby landed on a boat at sea off the Skellig islands in Co Kerry, and in the same year another was found washed up on an Irish beach.

However, the decomposition of the latter suggested it died long before it arrived in Irish waters.

Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland said the sighting is extremely rare in Europe.

"In an Irish context it's extremely rare. This is the first time that the bird has been seen in Ireland in a location people could actually see it," he said.

"It's a lovely bird. It's a tropical seabird related to our gannet here in Ireland. The brown booby is like a tropical counterpart of that, so we know this bird would have come from somewhere in the tropical Atlantic so it would have been the West Indies or the coast of central America or maybe even West Africa or somewhere like that.

"So it has gone much further north in the Atlantic than it normally would."

Mr Hatch said the bird, which is currently still ashore in Greystones, is in a healthy condition and will be left to its own devices.

While the brown booby has a wide-ranging habitat, that it could be in such good health so far north may be a concern.

An increase in recent sightings across Europe suggests that the effects of global warming are the cause for the bird's visit, said Mr Hatch.

Irish Independent