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‘A really big deal’: rare bird sighting on Vancouver Island has birders aflutter

The rare pine bunting has never been sighted south of Alaska in North America. .
The rare pine bunting has never been sighted south of Alaska in North America. . Maury Swoveland, BC Rare Bird Alert

Bird watchers are all a-flutter over a very rare bird sighting in Victoria.

“For the birding community, this was a really big deal,” said Ann Nightingale, with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory.

READ MORE: ‘He’s lost’: Southern U.S. bird spotted in Vancouver for 1st time, more than 2,000 km from home

On Tuesday, a birder captured a photo of what he thought was a Lapland longspur, but after posting it online there were some questions.

The photo was then shared on the American Birding Association’s Facebook page with the question, ‘What’s this bird?’

WATCH: Rare bird reappears on Vancouver Island after four-year absence

Rare bird reappears on Vancouver Island after four-year absence
Rare bird reappears on Vancouver Island after four-year absence

It wasn’t long before they got an answer.

“Immediately, people from around the world started weighting in,” said Nightingale. “Ultimately, identifying it as a pine bunting.”

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It’s the first time the species — which is native to Asia — has been seen anywhere south of Alaska in North America.

Birders from all over began to flock to the area hoping to see the pine bunting for themselves.

“We had people from Vancouver the next day, spending the whole day in Uplands park — along with some local birders trying to find this bird,l” said Nightingale.

“But despite spending all day, nobody re-sighted the bird.”

WATCH: Rare sighting brings birders flocking to South Vancouver home

Rare sighting brings birders flocking to South Vancouver home
Rare sighting brings birders flocking to South Vancouver home

While the sighting is extremely rare, it’s not the first time an Asian visitor has fluttered to the West Coast.

A red-flanked bluetail arrived to great excitement about ten years ago. Since then, more have been spotted.

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Birders say climate change is driving this trend.

“Because of storms, it will push birds off their regular migration route. It happens most often in the spring and fall migration, and the West Coast of Canada is a great place for birds to land,” said Nightingale.

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There’s a chance the bird could still be in the area. Birders will be keeping an eye out over the next couple of weeks, hoping to catch a glimpse of the rarity.