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Sunday 19 November 2017

Is it a hummingbird, is it a plane? No, it's just a moth

Stephen Maguire

IT'S the great hummingbird contest.

Dozens of keen birdwatchers have called BirdWatch Ireland in recent days claiming to have spotted the rare tiny bird across the country.

But the excited 'twitchers' have had their wings clipped after being told what they thought was a hummingbird is not even a bird after all.

According to BirdWatch Ireland, people have been mistaking the hummingbird hawk-moth for the elusive bird.

The moth mimics the beak of the hummingbird when searching out pollen from flowers. It even flaps its wings like the bird and has developed a humming sound.

Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland said his organisation had been swamped with sightings of hummingbirds.

And Mr Hatch revealed that people are getting into a flap when told they have made a mistake.

"Most people are taking it well but others think we are trying to have a laugh at their expense when we tell them they haven't seen a hummingbird.

"The usual reaction is 'I know what I saw.' But when you tell them it was actually a moth they saw it drives some of them mad," he said.

Niall revealed a number of reportings of the 'fake' hummingbird has come from the Aran Islands and around the general coastal regions.

"I can only think that the Aran Islands may have certain species of plants which the hawk-moth is drawn to.

"The moth mostly comes up from France and so it tends to settle in coastal regions and stays there when it lands in Ireland," he said.

Hummingbirds, the only known bird which can fly backwards, are found in America, Canada and the Caribbean.

"They couldn't migrate here because it would be physically impossible for them. Most need to feed every 15 minutes and the journey would be too long.

"So I'm afraid to say that anybody who thinks they have seen a hummingbird in Ireland should look again," added Mr Hatch.

Irish Independent

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