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Bird watchers from across the country this weekend flocked to Humboldt County for a once-in-a-lifetime look at a rare visitor.

This particular avian tourist -- known as the little bunting -- normally breeds in Siberia and overwinters in southern Asia, according to U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologist and local birder Keith Slauson.

”It's not a species you'd expect to see in this continent,” Slauson said. “A lot of people get into bird watching to see species they've never seen. A species that strays from Asia is one of the rarest of them all.”

Rob Fowler, a local birder and head of Fowlerope Birding Tours, said this is a unique opportunity for birders across the U.S.

”This is what is referred to as a 'life bird' in the bird-watching community,” he said. “In someone's lifetime, they can only see a certain number of species. For a lot of people, this is the only little bunting they would have a chance to see.”

Slauson discovered this Asiatic visitor in McKinleyville while walking with his son near Fischer Road and Hammond Bridge on Nov. 12. He said that he did not know the identity of the bird at first, but recognized that it was not a Humboldt County native by its unique call.

”It was different from anything heard normally around here, and I was immediately drawn to find the source of the call,” Slauson said.

Slauson then contacted Fowler about the sighting and confirmed the bird as a little bunting after a visit to the area the next morning.

It's the second time a little bunting has been spotted on the U.S. mainland, the first being in the Point Loma area of San Diego. There have been five reported sightings of the bird nationwide -- four of which were in California, counting the state's offshore islands, according to Fowler.

”There was one bird found in Oregon this past January, but it was only seen by a couple people,” Fowler said. “This bird has been out in the open, and is probably one of the most confiding little buntings in the lower U.S.”

Once the news of a rare bird sighting got out in the birding community, Fowler said hundreds of out-of-town visitors came to see it this weekend, some from as far as Massachusetts and Florida.

The bird can still be seen in the pasture located on the Pialorsi dairy farm north of the Hammond Bridge and Fischer Road in the McKinleyville Bottom, according to Fowler and Slauson.

”Since it's showing up in the wintertime, there is a good chance it will stick around,” Fowler said.

As its name implies, the little bunting only grows to around five inches, making it difficult to spot. Fowler said the best time to catch a glimpse of the bird is in the early morning around 8:30 a.m. when bird activity is at its peak.

Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504 or whouston@times-standard.com. Follow him on Twitter @Will_S_Houston