TWITCHERS across the North West have been all of a flutter after a rare bird was spotted on Horwich Moor.

Birdwatchers flocked to the area following a sighting of a lone wryneck close to Chorley Old Road with many sharing photographs of the bird on social media.

The small sparrow-sized birds are a member of the woodpecker family and are seen mainly on the ground where they feed almost exclusively on ants.

A small number of wrynecks pass through Britain every autumn on their way from Scandinavia to their wintering grounds south of the Sahara.

The birds get their name from their ability to turn their heads almost 180 degrees. When disturbed at their nest, they use their snake-like head twisting and hissing as a threat display.

“It is very rare for a wryneck to turn up this far inland,” said Bolton ornithologist, Simon Warford, who was one of the birdwatchers able to catch it on film.

“About 60 people came to come and see it on Monday just off Chorley Old Road.

“The area is a great spot for ants so it is no coincidence it has turned up there as there was one spotted there about 10 years ago in the exact same bush which is quite incredible really.”

The wryneck was once a common breeding bird in Britain. Regarded as numerous in the 19th century and even as recently as the 1950s records of them breeding in southern England were quite common but its range gradually contracted leaving just a handful of pairs in Scotland in the early 21st century. It is now thought to be extinct as a breeding bird in Britain though it is likely that one or two pairs occasionally breed and maybe go unnoticed.

However it is still numerous in Scandinavia and given a flow of easterly winds in September many of these will fly over our shores on their way south.

“It could have come as far away as Eastern Europe or Siberia,” said Simon. “In the UK you would only really expect to see them on the east coast in places like Norfolk.

“The only place I’ve ever seen one before was in Hungary so to see one in my home town when it is so elusive has been special.”