Forget the Cyclone—the big tourist attraction at Coney Island this weekend was the appearance of the rare grey-hooded gull, a bird so precious that one swooning birdwatcher called it "a life bird," meaning he's never seen one anywhere else.
The bird, which breeds mainly in South America and Africa, attracted bird-watchers from around the country as soon as a sighting of the gull was reported eBird.org, a site run by Cornell University’s ornithology lab and the National Audubon Society. One Chicago man heard about the bird last week, tracked its movement, and promptly booked a flight to New York to see it on Sunday morning. Local bird bloggers like Birding Dude also moved at warp speed to catch the gull, writing, "Muttering words that would make sailors blush, I battled the dreaded traffic down the Belt Parkway and made it just in time to get looks and photographs of the bird."
Officials believe it's only the second-ever time the rare gull has been spotted in the US; the first time was in Apalachicola, Florida, on Dec. 26, 1998. As the American Birding Association explains, the big question now is where this bird came from—if it escaped from a zoo or a personal home, the ABA won't accept the gull's jaunt to Coney as an official sighting. Bird lovers were psyched nonetheless: Amar Ayyash, the man who flew from Chicago, said, “Record-wise, this is probably the rarest seagull I’ve seen."