Birdwatchers flock to Donegal to see cattle egret

Tue, Jan 8, 2013, 00:00

Birdwatchers are flocking to Co Donegal in the hope of seeing an African visitor that has rarely been seen in Ireland.

A cattle egret has been spotted at a pig farm near the village of St Johnston, causing much excitement and interest among wildlife enthusiasts and ornithologists.

Birdwatch Ireland development officer Niall Hatch said that while sightings of the large bird in Ireland were rare, the occurrence so far north was “exceptionally rare”.

The cattle egret is a migratory member of the heron family and is native to Africa and Asia.

It is often found riding on the backs of herd animals such as wildebeest on the plains and savannahs of the tropics and sub-tropics.

Mr Hatch said our milder than usual winter and climate change generally were possible contributory factors in the bird’s arrival.

“This is a very rare bird generally for Ireland but getting one as far north as Donegal is an exceptional occurrence,” said Mr Hatch.

Egrets have been recorded by Birdwatch Ireland in southern counties including Cork, Waterford and Wexford in recent years.