European birds catch a ride to Mass. on Hurricane Sandy, but can they survive the cold?

Three Northern lapwings, European shore birds that seldom stray into the Western hemisphere, were apparently blown across the Atlantic into Massachusetts by the chaotic winds of Hurricane Sandy and are now in danger of succumbing to the cold New England winter, a bird expert said.

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

Two of the birds have taken up residence in a Nantucket pond and one has been sighted by the side of several Bridgewater roads, said Wayne Petersen, director of Mass Audubon’s Important Bird Areas Program.

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

“The extreme cold we’re having right now could spell the demise for the one still hanging on in Bridgewater,” he said. He thought the other two birds might fare better in Nantucket’s milder climate.

Unlike other shore birds, Petersen said, the Northern lapwing is a short-distance migrant. The birds would be incapable of flying back to Europe and probably incapable of flying south to warmer climes, he said.

A total of 11 different lapwings have been sighted on the East Coast, Petersen said.

It isn’t the first time a storm has blown lapwings from Europe to North America, but the number of sightings is a record, Petersen said.