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Wood-rail bird spotted in US. Birders go nuts.

Wood-rail bird is causing a stir in the birding world. The rare Rufous-necked wood-rail bird has never before been spotted in the US, but for the last two weeks one of the birds has been right at home among the cattails at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

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As the sun rises and sets each day, Mize said the boardwalk grows crowded with spectators wanting to see the bird strut out from behind the cattails and hunt for crayfish.

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One of the nation's premier bird-watching spots, the refuge attracts tens of thousands of people over the fall and winter months as throngs of snow geese and sandhill cranes migrate through the Rio Grande Valley. Now, Mize said it's hard to believe just one bird has captured all the attention in the offseason.

"It's way cool. We have people flying into Albuquerque every day, from Florida, California, the East Coast," Mize said. "There are people coming in renting cars and driving down because it's such a neat and rare event."

Legendary birder Sandy Komito was there last Tuesday and Wednesday to see the wood-rail. He holds the "big year" record for seeing or hearing the largest number of bird species in North America in a single year.

Throughout his 73 years of bird-watching, Komito had seen only one other Rufous-necked wood-rail. Last Tuesday, he gave up after spending 11 hours at the refuge and getting more of a suntan than he wanted. He wasn't happy. He heard it was spotted again late in the evening so he raced down the next morning and there it was. His camera sounded like a pneumatic jackhammer as the shutter fired, capturing close to 200 shots of the bird.

"There seems to be a great deal of delight in seeing something and then trying to figure out what it is you've discovered," Komito said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "In a sense, when you're going for rare birds it's almost like panning for gold and the bird represents a nugget."

Refuge officials also recalled the story of an Iowa man who flew into Denver, rented a car and drove down to see the wood-railonly to be disappointed. After driving back to Denver and turning in his rental, he got a phone call that the bird had reappeared. It was enough for him to change his flight, get another rental and drive back down.

"Serious, serious lengths," Mize said when asked about the efforts by some to see the bird.

"It's a great thing for birders to be able to check this bird off of their life list where otherwise they would have had to travel to Belize or Costa Rica or South America to see it," he said.

The big question though is why New Mexico.

Some theorize that it could be climate change, others point simply to the bird's wings.

"Birds, with their power of flight, do this kind of thing regularly and it's just one of the really cool delightful things about birding," Gordon said. "It's just like this super cool Christmas present when something like this turns up."

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Follow Susan Montoya Bryan at http://www.twitter.com/susanmbryanNM.

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Online:

Wood-rail updates: http://www.facebook.com/BosquedelApacheNWR

American Birding Association: http://aba.org

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