Belfast Telegraph

Orange-headed birds are trick of nature

Bird lovers across the Ireland have been flocking to report sightings of rare orange-headed birds.

But Birdwatch Ireland has revealed the birds are not a rare breed at all -- but a trick of nature. The birds are sparrows and starlings, but have been coloured by an unusual plant which is now growing in Ireland.

Birdwatch Ireland has received calls and emails from members of the public who have spotted the birds in their gardens in recent days.

The birds, which are very similar to both house sparrows and starlings, have been spotted in flocks and at bird tables up and down the country. The birds have been feeding on the plant, New Zealand flax, which has become common in gardens here.

The plant's tubular flower produces a rich, sweet nectar that many birds find irresistible. But in return for the nectar the plant brushes the bird's heads with a brightly coloured pollen, helping them to reproduce when their visitors move onto another flower.

The pollen, which fades away after a couple of days, does not cause the bird any harm. Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland says some people have been a little disappointed after thinking they have spotted a new breed of bird.

Belfast Telegraph

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