The Daily Telegraph
First Egyptian vulture seen since 1868 is ‘bird of the century’ for twitchers
AN Egyptian vulture spotted on the Isles of Scilly was yesterday hailed as the “bird of the century” after the first sighting of the species in Britain since 1868.
Birdwatchers flocked to the islands off the Cornish coast after the endangered bird of prey landed on a peninsula in what was only the creature’s third sighting in the UK.
It was photographed yesterday morning flying over Peninnis Head on St Mary’s before later being spotted on Tresco, where it was perched in a pine during the middle of the day.
The vulture is believed to have been blown off course from a home most probably in Spain but possibly further afield, by recent unseasonable weather patterns coming in from the south.
Twitchers described the sighting as “the bird of the century” for British birdwatchers because no one alive will have even seen one in this country.
Only two official sightings have been recorded in the UK – in Somerset in 1825 and Essex in 1868.
The Rare Bird Alert UK, which instantly flashes any rare sighting to its 68,000 Twitter followers, published footage of the vulture on its account with the label “Mega Alert”.
One twitcher said: “This is the biggest sighting of the century in some respects as the last one was in Essex in 1868 and the only other one in 1825. Both were shot! To see it this far off course now is something that will get birdwatchers flocking to Cornwall, if they can avoid the G7 security!”
Also known as “the pharoah’s chicken” because of its links to ancient Egypt, the bird is among the very few to use tools, such as using a pebble as a hammer, to break the eggs of other birds in order to eat the contents, and using a twig to gather wool for its nest. The vulture also eats carrion, rodents and reptiles.
The sighting is part of a remarkable month so far for British birders, having already included the first ever UK sighting of a sulphur-bellied warbler as well as very rare species such as the calandra lark, collared pratincole and red-necked stint.