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Chances slim for birds swept in by storm

Three Northern lapwings, European shore birds that were apparently blown across the Atlantic by Hurricane ­Sandy, are in danger of succumbing to the New England winter, a bird expert said.

The birds, with their colorful plumage and odd-looking head feathers, have drawn bird enthusiasts from across the country.

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Two have taken up residence near a Nantucket pond, and one has been spotted several times in Bridgewater, said Wayne Petersen, director of Mass Audubon Important Bird Areas Program.

Petersen, who has seen the Bridgewater lapwing several times, said the bird is in severe danger of starving because snow covering the frozen ground makes it nearly impossible for it to find worms and other food.

“The extreme cold we’re having right now could spell the demise of the one still hanging on in Bridgewater,” he said.

The two other birds might fare better in Nantucket’s milder climate, he said.

Unlike other shore birds, Petersen said, Northern lapwings are short-distance ­migrants. The birds would be incapable of flying back to ­Europe and probably unable to fly south to warmer climes, he said.

Eleven lapwings have been sighted on the East Coast since Hurricane Sandy, Petersen said. While it is not the first time a storm has blown lapwings across the Atlantic, the number of sightings is a ­record, he said.

While the lapwings were the superstars of the birds blown into Massachusetts by the storm, Sandy also brought other birds rarely seen in the Bay State. Petersen said the storm deposited in the Bay State several brown pelicans and one magnificent frigatebird. Their large sizes, he said, enabled them to survive the storm’s battering.

It was the first time, said Petersen, that he had seen a brown pelican in Massachusetts. Magnificent frigatebirds are also a rare sight, he said, though not as rare as the lapwings.

Joan Walsh, director of bird monitoring at the Massachusetts Audubon Society, previously told the Globe that as many as 15 brown pelicans were seen on Nantucket after Hurricane Sandy, a record number for the region. Many wore bands showing they were from North Carolina or Virginia. Two brown pelicans found in Rhode Island were returned to Florida in a private plane.

“We didn’t see a lot of the usual hurricane suspects like terns,” Petersen said. “But this storm brought some really ­unprecedented amounts of rare birds.”

Todd Feathers can be reached at todd.feathers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ToddFeathers.
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