ALAMO, Texas — A rare bird of prey was spotted in southern Texas in late December, marking the first time it had been seen in the U.S.
The bat falcon is commonly seen in Mexico and Central America, but it was the first time it had been seen north of those areas, KSAT-TV reported.
Photos taken at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge by Marla Hibbitts showed the black, white and copper-colored bird perched on a tree, the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth reported.
Another set of photos, taken by Peter Witt, were shared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to KSAT.
Witt told the television station he went to the refuge determined to see the bird.
“My wife Joyce Nies and I saw the bat falcon at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge on Feb. 9,” Witt said. “We knew it was the bat falcon when we spotted it since we had seen pictures taken by others and read about the bird online.”
The dark feathers at the top of the bat falcon’s head are reminiscent of a mask, the Star-Telegram reported.
Retired teacher Ray Sharpton, 77, drove alone for 34 hours from upstate New York to the refuge to see the bird, according to Border Report.
“I first heard about the bat falcon on eBird alert,” Sharpton told the website. “I’ve been watching it on the computer and finally one day I said, ‘I’m going!’”
Joe Barnett, the USFWS deputy manager for the lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, told Border Report that more than 4,000 bird lovers have traveled to south Texas since the bird was first spotted.
“Somebody even came from Europe, so it’s drawing a lot of attention. People coming just to see this bird,” Barnett said.
Witt called the sighting " a wonderful and unique experience.”
“We could see him fly off from a tree shag perch, skim the lake, grab an insect and return to chow down, then rest a bit and repeat,” Witt told KSAT. “We watched him for about 20 minutes.”
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