May 19, 2009

Asian bird spotted on Florida beach

Bird watchers are migrating thousands of miles to Florida for a chance to see an Asian bird that has shown up in a Jacksonville park.

Volunteers doing a census in Huguenot Memorial Park spotted the greater sand plover last week, The Orlando Sentinel reports. The species breeds in Turkey and central Asia and winters on Mediterranean and Indian Ocean beaches.

A greater sand plover was spotted in California in 2001, the first time it was reported in the Americas. Reports of the Florida bird have lured birdwatchers from distances almost as great as the one it traveled.

We have seen an influx of bird-watchers from as far as California, said Ben Pennymon, a spokesman for Jacksonville.

Pennymon said the bird has kept to a section of the park where off-road vehicles are banned from the beach.

It is a really big deal, especially because the first sighting in California, the bird was in its dull winter plumage, but this bird is in its beautiful breeding plumage, said Wes Biggs of Orlando, who has already made the pilgrimage to Jacksonville.