Where do magpies sleep? Readers’ nature queries

Eanna Ní Lamhna on a turnstone bird, a curious skeleton and dead man’s fingers

Magpie – does it sleep in a tree?

Magpie – does it sleep in a tree?

 

This magpie sleeps on a thin bar under my roof. He clearly stays alert so that he does not fall off the bar. I would think it is a strange place to sleep and can’t be that comfortable. Do they not sleep in nests in the trees? Elaine McKenna

Magpies belong to the order of birds called Passeriformes or perching birds. When they perch on a branch or bar, their feet automatically lock firmly around it. They only sleep in nests when they are incubating eggs in order to keep the eggs warm. There’s much more protection under your roof in winter.

Turnstones
Turnstones

We saw these on our walk down the South Bull Wall last Sunday. Are they oystercatchers or turnstones? Hugo Giles, Dublin

They are turnstones. These waders are winter visitors here from Greenland and northern Canada. They flick over stones and probe seaweed to eat whatever invertebrates are sheltering underneath. Although they have orange legs, their lack of a bright orange bill and much smaller size distinguishes them from oystercatchers.

Black-backed gull skeleton
Black-backed gull skeleton

We found this washed up on Tramore Beach in Downings. It was 75cm long. What is it? Sinead Vaughan, Donegal

It is – or was – a gull, probably a great black-backed gull on account of its size. The upper portion of the bill is thicker than the lower part in gulls.

Dead man’s fingers coral
Dead man’s fingers coral

Found this on the beach. I first thought it was a large piece of candy, but then saw many more scattered around. Most were broken, but this one as the photo shows was complete. Is it a dead “cushion star”? Elizabeth Montague

It is the gruesomely named dead man’s fingers, a soft coral that grows attached to wrecks, and indeed rocks too, in deeper waters.

Stick insect
Stick insect

Paul Murphy sent in this picture of a 15cm stick insect on the wall of his house in Kenmare, Co Kerry.

Have you a nature query, observation or photo you would like to share with The Irish Times? Submit it, with location of the image, via our website irishtimes.com/eyeonnature

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.