Highlands & Islands

Birdwatchers see rare white-throated needletail fly into turbine on Harris

Needletail
Image caption The white-throated needletail was spotted on Harris

An enthusiast who travelled to the Western Isles to view a rare bird has told of his "dismay" after watching it fly into a wind turbine and die.

The white-throated needletail, which breeds in Asia and winters in Australasia, was spotted on Harris.

About 30 birdwatchers travelled to the island to see the unusual visitor, which has only been recorded five times in the UK since 1950.

However, they then saw it die after colliding with the wind turbine.

Birdwatcher David Campbell, from Surrey, told the BBC Scotland news website that the incident took place late on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Campbell, who is now making his way home to south east England, said: "We just watched the whole thing with dismay."

He added that on a previous bird watching trip he had seen a migratory wryneck hit by a train.

A relative of the common swift, the white-throated needletail is said to be the fastest bird in level flight.

It is reported to reach a top speed of 105mph.

'Very rare'

The Rare Bird Alert, an online service that notifies users of sightings, had passed on reports of the white-throated needletail on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the service said users had told them the bird had died.

In a tweet, the service said: "The white-throated needletail on Harris flew into a wind turbine and has died, pathetic way for such an amazing bird to die."

RSPB Scotland said it was possible the migratory bird had been blown off course and had lost its way.

A spokeswoman said: "Whilst the collision of this unusual visitor with a small domestic wind turbine is very unfortunate, incidents of this sort are really very rare.

"Careful choice of location and design of wind farms and turbines prevents, as much as possible, such occurrences happening on a large scale."

She added: "Wind energy makes a vital contribution towards mitigating the impacts of climate change, which is the biggest threat to our native birds and wildlife."