The rare appearance of a European robin in here in the Chinese capital has caused a stir among nature fans, with some calling the bird a "Brexit refugee". Nearly 200 bird-watching photographers flocked to the popular Beijing Zoo last Friday after word spread that a European robin had been spotted there, the BBC reported on Monday. The red-breasted bird is common across Europe but is rarely seen in Beijing - it's only the third time one has been recorded in the capital.
Some birdwatchers have joked the robin might be a "Brexit refugee", the report said. "It's very rare to see [the European robin] in Beijing," Terry Townshend, founder of Birding Beijing told the BBC. "Almost 200 photographers camped out for it. I think a lot of people want to [capture it] because it's a very photogenic bird and it has that sort of exotic feel." Townshend said he found out about the sighting through bird watching groups on WeChat - a messaging app in China.
"A lot of people associate the bird with Britain... [so] someone in the WeChat group called the bird a 'Brexit refugee' because [they joked that it was] escaping the political chaos in the UK," Townshend said, referring to embattled British Prime Minister Theresa May's controversial Brexit deal with the European Union which would be voted by the House of Commons on Tuesday. A defeat in Parliament would throw May's Brexit plans into disarray, weeks before the UK is due to leave the 28-member bloc on March 29. It is not common for robins to migrate and it is unclear how this one might have landed so far away from home.
"It normally lives in Europe [and] Beijing is at least 1,500 miles (over 2,400 km) of where it should normally be," said Townshend. "But it's likely that this bird is from the eastern part of Europe and not Britain." "We don't really know why birds sometimes turn up in odd places, it might be related to weather, when they are migrating they could be blown by strong winds."
However it got there, the European robin is expected to stay in Beijing for some weeks to come. Townshend said a robin would normally only leave for home at the end of winter. "So we would expect it to stay in Beijing for the rest of winter and it would probably disappear in March." The European robin was in 2015 chosen as UK's first national bird in a poll of more than 200,000 people.
(With inputs from agencies.)