YOU might be tempted to call it a wild goose chase – if the bird in question weren’t so rare.

Twitchers have been flocking to Saltney after a little-seen Purple Gallinule was spotted in the area.

Experts believe this may be the first sighting of the bird in Wales for at least 100 years.

The Gallinule first appeared a week ago around the Morrisons building site and fast became an internet sensation.

Birdwatchers swapped stories and pictures on web forums and, by Sunday, more than 50 people from across the UK had gathered to catch a glimpse of the elusive moorhen.

With a distinctive purple plumage that covers the whole body, the bird’s usual habitat is the marshlands of France and Spain and the lily beds of Asia.

And the Gallinule has ruffled a few feathers.

Opinion is divided as to whether the wader could have flown all the way from India or if it has escaped from captivity.

Chester Zoo and local collectors have denied knowledge of the bird and many believe the fact it is unringed means it is wild.

But Ian Spence, bird recorder for Flintshire and Denbighshire, says this is unlikely.

He said: “The bird has been seen coming up to people offering bread. This must mean it is a captive bird.

“A wild Purple Gallinule wouldn’t do that. It would feed on insects and vegetation in swamps and reed beds and avoid human contact.”

Linda Lawson, of Carlton Avenue, is one of many residents who has seen the bird exploring her garden.

She said: "It was eating bread and nuts. At first I was a little alarmed at such an unusual sight, but it really is a beautiful bird.

“I started to worry in case it came to danger from a bird of prey and we did not see it again for a time.

“Then we spotted it again sitting among the reeds with the ducks on the brook nearby. It really was quite a sight.”

On Sunday night rumours circulated claiming the bird had been caught by its owner.

But it was still at large in Balderton Brook yesterday, where it attracted quite a crowd. Saltney resident Val Lythe said she had been surprised by her town’s new popularity.

She said: “It’s certainly put us on the map. He’s only been here three days and it’s good that he’s chosen this brook. He’s beautiful.”

And Councillor Klaus Armstrong-Braun is enthusiastic about the bird’s choice of home. He said: “Why has it come here? Because it likes Saltney!”

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