Sherkin Island Marine Station

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Ireland's Bird Life
A World of Beauty

Photography by Richard Mills

Text by Richard Lansdowne

© Sherkin Island Marine Station

The Blue Tit
Parus caeruleus
Meantán gorm

Blue Tits are a familiar sight in towns and gardens, hanging acrobatically from the bird table to extract peanuts, or taking the tops off milk bottles on the doorstep early in the morning. In the summer, they can be an enormous help to gardners and farmers as they feed themselves and their young almost exclusively on caterpillars.

The Gannet
Sula bassana

Gannets nest in huge ancestral colonies on rocky sea cliffs and offshore islands. Their nests are separated exactly by the distance which an adult can reach, so that sitting birds and young are not exposed to the rapier-like thrusts of their neighbours when on the nest.

The Cuckoo
Cuculus canorus

Cuckoos are parasitic upon other birds. The female lays her egg in the nest of a smaller bird such as a meadow pipit, and as soon as it hatches, the young cuckoo ejects the eggs of its host so that there is no competition for food. This photograph shows a recently fledged young cuckoo, which will soon migrate south to Africa for the winter.

Haematopus ostralegus

A common bird of rocky coasts and estuaries, the oystercatcher draws attention to itself by its loud piping call and striking black and white plumage with orange bill. This photograph shows a flock in late winter. Some birds have already moulted into summer plumage, losing the black tip to the bill and the white neck band.

The Pheasant
Phasianus colchicus

Like various other game birds, pheasants were introduced into Ireland. However the natural habitat of the pheasant is in the bamboo and forest-covered hills of China. Hen pheasants are much less striking than their mates which helps them to avoid detection by predators when they are sitting on the nest or have small young.

The Wren
Troglodytes troglodytes

Wrens are one of the most abundant and widespread birds in Ireland, occurring from urban gardens, to the wildest sea cliffs and high mountains. In spite of its small size, the wren has a loud ringing song which can be heard throughout the year, even in the wildest winter.

The Curlew
Numenius arquata

Curlews are the commonest of the large waders to occur on our coasts. In summer, they breed on moors and upland pasture, where their haunting, bubbling song is a frequent sound in spring and early summer. (The two smaller birds in the foreground are redshank.)

© Sherkin Island Marine Station 2006