A RARE bird spotted just 50 times a year in Britain has been sighted in Oxfordshire.

The sighting of the rose-coloured starling excited wildlife enthusiasts in Witney.

Penny Ponton, who lives on the Smiths Estate in the town, saw the bird in her garden on New Year’s Eve and again on New Year’s Day.

Unsure of its species, she contacted West Oxfordshire district councillor Andrew Coles, who volunteers for wildlife charity RSPB.

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Mr Coles initially thought it was a leucistic blackbird but after checking with colleagues at RSPB, the bird was identified as a juvenile rose-coloured starling.

Mrs Ponton, who takes pride in her wildlife-friendly garden, was thrilled with her rare visitor.

She said: “I have a lot of birds visiting and put lots of food out for them but this is a first.”

Mr Coles said the sighting was ‘a lovely way to start 2021’.

He added: “Rose-coloured starlings are rare sightings in Britain with only about 50 spotted across the whole country on an average year.”

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The birds’ normal breeding range is in Asia and far eastern Europe.

According to the British Trust for Ornithology, the reasons for its venture outside of that range are not yet fully understood but appear to be linked to changes in the population of locusts, on which it feeds.

The bird is also known as the rosy starling and rose-colour pastor, with the name pastor coming from the Latin ‘pastor’, meaning shepherd.

In May, large flocks were noticed in central Europe and in Austria, flocks totalling more than 20 individuals were logged.

In July, the bird bred in France for the first time.

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