Clough – Cag Cosdearg – All year round
A special bird – Red bill, Red Legs and Red Listed! Red listed birds are those that have suffered a 50% population decrease in the last twenty-five years in Ireland. Although it has deceased in number, the Clough is still easily seen around our coasts. This beautiful glossy black member of the crow family has none of the destructive habits normally associated with other corvids, feeding harmlessly on ants and insects dug up from close cropped grass or under lichen rocks. In flight it is recognisable by its “fingered” wings and its evocative cry of “key-aww”
Pied Wagtail – Meantan Earrfhada – All year round
The Pied Wagtail with its unmistakable black and white plumage and continually wagging tail is a delightful bird to watch as it flits to and fro along the riverbank and pathways. Not confined to water, it can be seen on the streets of the busiest towns.
Grey Wagtail – Glasog Liath – All year round
A regular sight, especially near water, are the wagtails, Pied & Grey being the most common. The name “Grey” does not do this bird justice, for with its grey head and back it also sports black and white, and a splash of bright yellow on its chest, belly & undertail. Both birds live up to their name by having a constantly wagging tail. With jerky head movements they rush after their insect prey, often darting up in the air about half a metre to catch them.
Long-tailed Tit – Meantan Earrfhada – All year round
Quite unlike other members of the tit family in plumage and in shape, with a black and white head, crimson pink body and whitish underparts, they have a black and white tail that is remarkably long compared to the round ball of their bodies. Often seen in flocks, they are a delight to watch as they dance about the trees, always on the move.
Kestrel – Pocaire Gaoithe – All year round
Most people can recognise the Kestrel. A species of falcon, a small bird of prey with long, relatively narrow wings and tall. Hovering on the wind, their heads motionless, as wings, body and tail move in a dance as they fix their gaze on some hapless prey below.
Great Tit – Meantan Mor – All year round
The largest of the tit family, it is about the same size as the Sparrow. Its white cheeks on an otherwise black head, and the black on its chin, extend down to its belly in a thick line. Its under-parts are yellowish and the upper-parts are green in colour.
Peregrine Falcon – Fabhcun Gorm – All year round
The most majestic of resident raptors, is the Peregrine Falcon. Around fifteen pairs of nests in the area, mainly on cliff ledges and crags. The mortality rate amongst young birds is quite high, probably due to the severe weather conditions on the west coast especially in a wet, cold spring.
Puffin – Puifin – April – Mid August mainly seen on the Skelligs
Most of the Puffin breeding colonies are on inaccessible islands or grassy slopes on cliff faces. The Puffin is a hole nester and loves places frequented by rabbits, where they take over abandoned burrows, although they are perfectly capable of digging their own holes. Only present in the Summer, they spend the rest of their time on the ocean and do not return until April when they lay one egg.
Grey Plover – Feargog Ghlas – September to April
A winter visitor to estuaries, one never sees the striking summer plumage they have in their Arctic breeding grounds.
Redshanks – Cosdeargan – Winter
A medium sized wading bird, notable for its red legs (shank being an old English word for leg), often joined by its close relative the Greenshank. Frequently seen feeding on foreshores and estuaries, numbers increase in winter with an influx of birds from the Continent and England.
Sanderling – Uathran – Winter
Looking like a small clockwork toy, the Sanderling moves quickly along the edge of the shoreline, never seeming to rest as it searches for food.
Gannet – Gainead – February to October Skellig Michael
If you have the chance to see a gannet diving for fish off the coast it is something that will live with you for a long time. They spot their prey, dive, and fold back their wings at the last second so that they look like arrows as they plunge into the ocean and with, specially reinforced skulls to cushion the impact, they bob back up to the surface with a full belly of fish! With a wingspan of six feet it is an impressive bird. They breed on isolated rocky islands in early Spring until late Autumn where they lay one egg in a nest of seaweed and debris on a ledge. They do not like to be disturbed, hence they are absent from Skellig Michael but abundant on the Little Skellig where they form a colony of over 20,000 pairs. The island appears to shine compared to Skellig Michael due to the presence of so many white birds and their dropping!
Dunlin – Breacog – Winter
At high tide, large flocks fly along the shore moving as one and looking like clouds of smoke in the distance. They are mainly seen locally in their winter plumage.
Kingfisher – Cruidin – All year round
A walk by water is a pleasure at any time, but to see the flash of electric blue of the Kingfisher will make a lasting impression on you as it flies fast and low over the water. If you lucky enough you may see one perched on an overhanging branch as it waits patiently for its prey of small fish.
Wren – Dreoilin – All year round
This familiar little brown bird with its turned up tail and confiding nature has a voice that outdoes its size. The sheer volume of noise that comes out of such a tiny throat is striking. On a clear day it can be hear over a range of 800 metres! The wren has a long history of association with humans and a great deal of tradition has grown up around them that lingers to this day. One of these occurs on 26th December, St. Stephen’s Day, when ‘Wran Boys’ go around from door to door. In the old days a wren was hunted in the hedgerows, killed and paraded on a stick. Luckily these days they are much loved bird that no one wishes any harm.
Grey Heron – Corr Riasc – All year round
A well-known bird of the river banks, marshes and shoreline, it can be seen flapping slowly overhead or motionless by the water waiting to strike at its prey. Although at first glance it is a pale looking bird, upon closer inspection you will find it has fine markings with black on the head, neck and underparts, and a magnificent yellow bill.
Goldcrest – Ciorbhui – All year round
The Goldcrest is the smallest bird that exists in Ireland. Because of its size its metabolism requires it to constantly search for food. It is therefore very hard to spot in the foliage, but this charming bird is well worth the extra effort to find. It is a colourful bird, and with its strikingly hypnotic eyes and incredibly small size it is unmistakable and a delight to observe.
Coal Tit – Meantan Dubh – All year round
About the same size as a Blue Tit, it has a bold black cap and white cheeks like a great tit, but with a white patch on the back of the head, brownish grey above and buff yellow below.
Kittewake – Saidhbhear – February to September
A small gull, slightly larger than the Black-headed Gull, they are basically grey above & white below. Noisey at colonies, giving a nasal call resembling its name. They can often be heard clearly over the sounds of other birds at seabird colonies. Summer visitor to steep coastal cliffs along all Irish coasts who then disperses to the open ocean in winter and less frequently seen.
Razorbill – Crosan – April to Mid August
A species of Auk, highly marine and only found on land in breeding season. A black and white seabird, black above and white below. Nests on cliffs. Can be seen close to the sea with Gillemotts.
Guillimots – Uria Aalge – April to Mid August
The commonest species of Auk in Ireland, like the Razorbill highly marine species which are only found on land in the breeding season. A dark brown and white seabird, at a distance can be confused with the Razorbill but the Gillimot has a longer body, browner upper-parts with less white on the side of the body. Seen flying in lines close to the sea with Razorbills. They nest on cliff ledges, often in large colonies and lays eggs directly onto the rock.
Maxshearwater – Canog Dhubh – April to September
A black and white seabird, black above and white below. Long narrow wings, which are used for gliding low over waves, with hardly a wing beat employed to aid flight. Characteristic switchback flight action with bird banking over waves, which it employs for lift, showing black and then white, then black and so on. Straight bill with hooked tip and tube-shaped nostrils on the upper mandible, giving distinctive bill shape if seen at close range.
Storm Petrel – Guairdeall – April to September
A small, dark seabird with a white rump, recalling a House Martin. Small in size with short wings, a quick flight action, sometimes dangles legs over the sea when feeding. Straight bill with hooked tip and tube-shaped nostrils on the upper mandible, giving distinctive bill shape if seen at close range. Nostrils used to excrete salt. The smallest of the petrels found in Irish waters and only likely confusion is with the scarcer Leach’s Storm-petrel (the Wilson’s Petrel is very rare). Small size, square shaped rump patch extending down onto the sides and quicker flight action aid separation. Diagnostic broad, whitish band on underwing. Square shaped tail.
Herring Gulls – Faoilean Scandan – All year round
A large gull, which in adult plumage has light grey upperwings, showing black tips with white ‘mirrors’ (white at the very tips surrounded by black); the rest of the plumage is white. Similar to Common Gull in colouration, but separated by size, Common Gull is much smaller and shows larger, more conspicuous white ‘mirrors’ at the wing tip as an adult. Adult birds have heavy yellow bills with an orange spot on the lower bill, the head is pure white in the summer and streaked in the winter. The legs are pink at all ages.