Rare African birds ditch the sun in favour of Irish boglands

Glossy ibis and whitetailed eagle spotted in Irish midlands

Three ibises in flight  on Wednesday at Bunihinly Bog, Co Westmeath. Photograph:  David Fallon

Three ibises in flight on Wednesday at Bunihinly Bog, Co Westmeath. Photograph: David Fallon

 

A number of rare African birds have ditched warmer climes and have taken up residence in Ireland’s deepest, dankest low-lying bogs.

According to Bord na Móna, the peat and energy semi-state, three glossy ibises, normally found in North Africa, have moved to a bog in Co Westmeath and another has been spotted at a bog in Co Offaly.

It said there have been a number of other sightings of rare birds, including a whitetailed eagle, on Irish bogs in the past few weeks.

A lone ibis pic in Lough Boora Discovery Park, Co Offaly. Photograph: Philomena Brady
A lone ibis pic in Lough Boora Discovery Park, Co Offaly. Photograph: Philomena Brady

Bord na Móna Ecologist Dr Mark McCorry said: “We are used to the occasional rare bird sighting but to get three glossy ibis in Bunihinly bog in Co Westmeath is very exciting. It follows sightings in the last week of another very rare glossy ibis at Lough Boora Discovery Park in Offaly and a Whitetailed Eagle on a bog in Co Roscommon.

“It is all very interesting to watch. The whitetailed eagle is a truly magnificent bird that was reintroduced in Co Kerry a few years ago but has so far been rarely seen out in the Midlands bogs so we were delighted to see it last week.”

Dr McCorry said the ibis is “a very beautiful species” adding the next few years will tell if it is becoming established here.

It is understood the birds arrive in Ireland having been blown off course. “When a species like the Glossy Ibis is blown off course and finds itself in Ireland it will naturally choose a good wetland as a place to stay,” Dr McCorry added.

One theory as to why they are being spotted more often in Northern European countries is due to climate change - drier conditions in France, Spain and Portugal are pushing them northwards.

How to recognise a Glossy Ibis

Ibis are cousins of the spoonbills, storks and herons. In Ireland, it may be confused with the curlew which is a wader, one of the sandpiper family. Both species frequent similar marshy places but the curlew is smaller and its plumage is brown. The ibis is a dark brownish-purple. Glossy refers to the greenish wing feathers, iridescent like those of a mallard’s head.