|Scientific name:||Vanellus vanellus|
Residents, summer visitors from the Continent (France & Iberia) and winter visitors (from western & central Europe). Some overlap between all three groups. Greatest numbers occur in Ireland between September & April
Distinct black-and-white, pigeon-sized wader, with wide rounded wings and floppy beats in flight. Wispy crest extending upwards from back of head and green/purple irridescence seen at close range. Pinkish legs.
Plaintive "pwaay-eech' in flight, song described as 'chae-widdlewip, i-wip i-wip… cheee-o-wip'
Feed on a variety of soil and surface-living invertebrates, particularly small arthropods and earthworms. Also feed at night, possibly to avoid kleptoparasitic attacks by Black-headed Gulls, but also, some of the larger earthworm species are present near the soil surface at night, and thus are more easily accessible. They use traditional feeding areas, are opportunistic, and will readily exploit temporary food sources, such as ploughed fields and on the edge of floodwaters.
They breed on open farmland, and appear to prefer nesting in fields that are relatively bare (particularly when cultivated in the spring) and adjacent to grass.
Wintering distribution in Ireland is widespread. Large flocks regularly recorded in a variety of habitats, including most of the major wetlands, pasture and rough land adjacent to bogs.
Irish Wetland Bird Survey.
Widespread resident. Shannon & Fergus Estuary in County Clare, Shannon Callows in County Offaly and the Wexford Harbour & Slobs in County Wexford regularly support >10,000 birds. Other important sites include Strangford Lough in County Down and the Cull & Killag in County Wexford (>8,000 birds)
Winter population bolstered by migrant birds from Europe.
Blog posts about this bird
We've got Corncrakes covered on the Mullet!
It has taken a huge amount of research over many years to inform the Corncrake conservation methods used in Ireland and Britain today.“Creating early cover patches has been key to our successful Corncrake management,” said Dave Suddaby, BirdWatch Ireland’s Reserves Manager. “The most important thing about early cover vegetation is its structure – it must be tall enough to shelter birds but open enough to allow them to move easily through it. “Several herb species can be the mainstay of an early cover patch: nettles, hogweed and cow parsley are good examples of species with the right structure. It’s best to work with the species found locally or which are easiest to grow in the local conditions. Nettles and hogweed are good choices as tall-herb species within the right soil structure, especially where that can be enriched with farmyard manure or similar. “Over the years we have worked with local farmers who have provided us with manure and a seed source. The seeds of nettle and hogweed are collected by hand and are then broadcast into the enriched soils; together with the other grasses and herbs that grow up alongside. These then develop as cover areas over a series of years, providing ideal habitat both early and late in the season. “It is important though that these do not become thick and impenetrable, and so each autumn these areas are flail-mown to maintain an open structure the following spring, thus negating the need to use herbicides. This management provides habitat for an abundance of invertebrates which Corncrakes feed on.” However, we are always trialing new and better ways of providing optimum habitat for Corncrakes and we liaise closely with our RSPB colleagues in this respect. Recent studies indicate that the larger the cover area, the better, so at present, we are experimenting with creating large plots of cover over a whole field. “We know from radio tracking studies that female Corncrakes far prefer large cover areas in which to raise their chicks over grass which is cut for hay or silage,” says Anita. “Therefore covering entire fields with this type of vegetation could allow more pairs to nest there. Whilst this might not be feasible for farmers who need the grass crop, on a nature reserve, where biodiversity is the focus, we can experiment with this. However, there is a financial cost to this, and with support from the Heritage Council, we have kept costings low; however, that does mean that the cover areas take more time to develop. Even so, it is proving favourable to Corncrakes, with two males holding territory within the field last summer.” However, at this reserve not only have we protected Corncrakes, we have created a biodiversity haven for a wealth of other wildlife too. This work was initiated with funding support as part of an EU Termoncarragh Life project for Annex 1 Species between 2001 and 2005, and thereafter by other supporters, particularly the Heritage Council.
Red-necked Phalarope is one of the rarest breeding birds in Ireland, and one of many species to have benefited from the work on our Mayo reserves.The restoration of the pool systems at our Annagh Marsh reserve, overseen by Dave, has, after an absence of 30 years, seen the return of successfully breeding Red-necked Phalaropes. These beautiful and enigmatic birds are one of seven rare or endangered breeding species to occur in the marsh that are Red-listed in our newly updated all-Ireland list of Birds of Conservation Concern (BOCCI 4). Lapwing is another of these highly threatened Red-listed species, and our active management has seen their breeding population grow from zero to 26 pairs over the last 10 years, assisted by the erection and management of a predator-proof fence and the help and cooperation of local farmers. With improved productivity, breeding Lapwings have returned to the surrounding area.
Breeding Lapwing have been lost from many parts of Ireland, but their numbers are increasing on our Mayo reserves and surrounding farmland.Our management at the marsh and nearby at our Termoncarragh Meadows reserve is also providing a haven for a suite of rare and vulnerable invertebrates, such as the Belted Beauty moth, the Red-banded Sand Wasp and the Irish Click Beetle Selatosomus melancholicus. A recent study by University College Dublin confirmed that our reserve areas hold the highest numbers of the rare and endangered Great Yellow Bumblebee on the Mullet Peninsula, which is home to the only remaining population currently known in Ireland. At BirdWatch Ireland, we are working tirelessly to protect biodiversity through our project work, our reserves and our advocacy for nature.
You can read more about our Annagh Marsh and Termoncarragh Reserves, and about where to go birdwatching in north-west Mayo, in the articles below, taken from our membership magazine 'Wings'.