A rare duck which is the only one of its kind in Britain has vanished from a nature reserve.
The unique hooded merganser had become a major attraction at the RSPB’s Radipole Lake in Weymouth, Dorset, since arriving 18 months ago.
Bird lovers from round the country flocked to see the bird, which is normally only found in the USA and Canada.
But the black and white merganser, nicknamed Hoody, has not been seen for three weeks and staff have launched an appeal to find him.
Weymouth Wetlands information officer Luke Phillips said: ”Hoody had become a bit of a fixture here as well as a real visitor attraction.
”We’d got pretty used to having him around, with his pretty plumage and his quirky courting displays, raising his crest or ‘hood’ – unfortunately, all lost on the female tufted ducks he was trying to impress.”
Reserve manager Nick Tomlinson added: ”Opinion is still divided as to whether Hoody is a wild bird blown badly off course during migration or an escapee from a private collection.
”Either way, he looked pretty storm battered when he arrived here as a juvenile 18 months ago.
”As he’s now grown up at about two years old, he could have gone off looking for a mate and he may have left with the tufted ducks to their breeding ground in northern Europe.
”If that’s the case he could be back again in the autumn when they return.
”In the mean time we’re appealing to people to get in touch if they see him. Anywhere there are ducks, he could be among them so please take a look.”