BirdWatch Ireland reveals march of the woodpeckers


IRELAND IS being invaded again by the British, but this time it is the great spotted woodpecker that is leading the charge, according to BirdWatch Ireland.

It is thought that the species became extinct in Ireland following the widespread woodland clearances of the 17th and 18th centuries, but bones found by archaeologists suggest the birds were present here since the bronze age.

Now, after 300 years, bird lovers estimate there are 50 breeding pairs living on the island of Ireland with the main concentration of nests located in Co Wicklow.

They have been trying to understand why the normally sedentary woodpecker has decided to come here and from which of the 25 species of great spotted woodpeckers they hail.

A report in the eWings magazine said the British birds might have come because the British population of woodpeckers had increased dramatically, by some 400 per cent in the past 40 years.

It said the recolonisation of Ireland from Britain has been in two waves, with the first woodpeckers arriving in Northern Ireland and breeding there in 2006. Three years later breeding was confirmed in Co Wicklow. “The Wicklow population has been the subject of a detailed study ongoing since 2008 and the population has increased there from seven nests confirmed in 2009 to 17 nests in 2011, with a further nest in Co Dublin,” noted the report.

Geneticists in UCD and woodpecker researchers across Europe have sought to explore the likely origin of the birds

“The diverse nature of the haplotypes found within the genetic study suggests that the Irish population has been founded from multiple localities within Britain,” stated the report.