BIRDERS have flocked to Queensland this week to get a glimpse of a migratory bird seen only a handful of times in Australia.
The bird - that has some south-east Queensland twitchers driving hundreds of kilometres to see - is the semipalmated plover, a plump mostly brown and white species.
It breeds in the Arctic at places like Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and usually migrates to North and South America.
But this year the plover must have been in a muddle and joined other migratory species on the 13,000km long-haul flight to the warm sanctuary of Moreton Bay.
It has given Australian bird watchers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a creature that makes one of the world's great animal migrations.
Queensland Wader Study Group secretary Peter Rothlisberg said he had been to the wetlands to take a close look at the plover.
"This bird usually migrates between the Arctic or Canada and goes south along the coastline for non-breeding season, to North America... It rarely comes this way," he said.
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Mr Rothlisberg said it must have become confused, changing its flight path.
"My guess is he was hanging out with similar birds, got confused and landed up in Australia. It's a long distance migrant and usually takes the North American flyways," he said.
He said a semipalmated plover had previously been seen in Broome, West Australia.
Mr Rothlisberg said the bird's arrival on the Australian east coast was a big deal in the birding world and would attract a crowd.
"If borders were open, there's no doubt people from NSW and Victoria would be up here to see the rare bird," he said.
"We have no idea how long the bird will stick around for, but it's unlikely to be all year round.
"It is a mature bird as I can tell from his plumage. This isn't its first migration. It could migrate south with the other birds."
Cr Wendy Boglary who was at the Geoff Skinner Wetlands this morning said gumboots and binoculars or a big camera lens were needed to see the plover.
"The buzz in the bird watching community is huge," Cr Boglary said. "There were about 30 people at the wetlands this morning. Same amount yesterday.
"Lucky for this semipalmated plover and us we still have the wetlands.
"These birds have only been seen in Australia less than 10 times and perhaps only twice in Queensland, hence all the excitement.
"But this hasn't deterred numerous birdwatchers from across south-east Queensland, many of whom said they had never been here and will be returning."
The plover is spending time along the foreshores with other migratory species like the eastern curlew.
The Queensland Environment Department says the Moreton Bay Marine Park is often the first site shorebirds use in Australia on their southern journey and the last site before they return north.
"Shorebirds travel remarkable distances of up to 25,000 kilometres each year. They breed in areas where melting snow brings masses of insects, providing a vital food source for self-feeding chicks. Once breeding is complete, and before the onset of the arctic winter, the adults and their chicks begin their return journey to the plentiful feeding grounds in the south," scientists say.
"Migrating shorebirds need huge amounts of energy to complete their journey...
"The eastern curlew, dramatically builds up its body weight just prior to migration. During its 13,000 kilometre flight from Siberia to Australia it will burn 40 percent of its body weight.
"This is equivalent to an 80 kilogram person running 16 million kilometres almost non-stop and losing 32 kilograms, twice a year."