is very common in Ireland. The male is all black with a bright orange
beak and eye ring. The female is all dark brown. It is a ground feeding
bird often seen rooting up leaf litter looking for grubs and worms. The
nest is usually built in the middle of dense undergrowth or bushes. It
will usually sing from an exposed perch and like its cousin the Song Thrush
can sometimes be seen singing from Chimney tops and television aerials.
The song is loud with short bursts of song lasting up to five seconds
followed by a short break and then another burst of song. The study of
the song of the Blackbird has led researchers to believe that they were
originally forest birds because the relatively low notes travel well through
woodland. It is best heard at dawn or dusk between February and July.
Irish Name: Préachán or Rúcach Latin Name: Corvus frugilegus Length: 33cm
black bird which nests in tall trees such as Scots Pines or Beech. Identified
from other crows by the power white base to the beak and feathers on the
legs like shaggy trousers. They nest in large groups called rookeries.
These are very noisy places during the breeding season and add a great
background drone to a dawn chorus. As with most birds that nest in colonies
its song is not well developed and because it is so unmelodic a bad singer
is often referred to as "singing like a crow". Rooks can pair for life
and often stay together all year round. Over half a million pairs breed
in Ireland each year. It can be heard at its rookery from the beginning
of February when last years nests are repaired and the noise of birds
fighting over twigs can be heard. Because it usually nests in tall trees
its sounds can be heard far away. When the young hatch in April or May
the noise increases as young birds join the chorus begging for food.
Irish Name: Spideóg Latin Name: Erirthacus rubecula Length: 14 cms
Well known from Christmas cards, the Robin is familiar to all. Also related
to the Blackbird and Song Thrush the Robin is found in more gardens in
Ireland that any other bird. It feeds on a wide variety of insects and
worms as well as scraps and food left out by people. Its nest is built
in a wide variety of locations ranging from Ivy covered walls to the inside
of an old teapot! They usually sing from the top or edge of bushes and
also posts at the edge of their territory. They can be heard singing almost
all year round. During late autumn and winter the song is often much quieter
that during the breeding season. In suburban areas streetlights often
trigger Robins to sing at night. This is not a rare occurrence.
Irish Name: Dreoilín Latin Name: Troglodytes troglodytes Length: 9cm
is one of our smallest birds and features in many old Irish myths and
stories. They are insect eaters and their long thin, slightly curved beak
is well suited to rooting out small insects. It often sings with its stiff
tail held almost vertically in the air. It builds a ball shaped nest with
an entrance hole on the side in dense undergrowth. Its Latin name means
cave dweller and comes from its "cave" like nest and its habit of rarely
coming out of the undergrowth. It will sometimes nest in a nest box. It
may be one of our smallest birds but it is also one of the loudest. Not
always the first to start singing in the dawn chorus but once is does
it often drowns out everything else singing nearby. When it sings for
the top of a low bush it often moves its cocked tail mechanically from
side to side.
Irish Name: Smólach Latin Name: Turdus philomelos Length: 23cm
This handsome bird is brown above and cream coloured below with dark spots
and chevrons. Like other members of the thrush family the Song Thrush
eats worms, grubs and insects. It can often be seen on large close cut
lawns looking for grubs and worms on or near the surface. It also like
snails which it smashes open on a favourite stone often referred to as
an anvil. The nest is cup shaped and usually built in large bushes. With
the word song in its name it is no wonder that it is one of Ireland's
most melodic singers. Like the Blackbird it sings from prominent perches.
The song is loud and it will often repeat musical phrases up to five times,
unlike the Blackbird, which rarely repeat any part of its song. The song
will often last from many minutes at a time with only short breaks between
Irish Name: Bráthair an Dreoilín Latin Name: Prunella modularis Length: 14cm
is a small brown bird with a short thin beak. It has red or brown eyes,
dark streaks on a brown back and dark grey below. Sometimes called the
Hedge Sparrow probably because of its general resemblance to the House
Sparrow even though it is no relation. A very shy bird,it will feed in,
under or near bushes. They are usually insect eaters but will also take
other food and will sometime come to bird tables in winter. It nests in
dense undergrowth. Its song is a bit like that of a Wren though not quite
as loud. It will sing almost all year round but like most other songbirds
is most vocal before and during the breeding season.
Irish Name: Rí Rua Latin Name: Fringilla coelebs Length: 16cms
is one of the most common members of the finch family in Ireland. The
male is very colourful, bright pink/orange below and blue/grey around
the head. The female is duller. It eats seeds during the autumn and winter
and turn to insects, caterpillars and grubs during the breeding season.
It nests in bushes and hedges. The male sings from a prominent perch usually
at the side or top of a large bush or tree. Once you learn its song, which
only lasts a couple of seconds before being repeated, you will easily
locate one. It does not usually sing after the breeding season.
was brought to Ireland at the end of the 16th. Century. Originally from
Eastern Europe and Asia it is now a familiar sight in the Irish countryside.
The male is very brightly coloured with a greenish head a red face patches
and a long tail while. The female is duller brown with a shorter tail.
They nest on the ground or occasionally on low bushes. In a dawn chorus
competition it would not win a prize for its singing ability. Its "song"
is a very loud single rasping note, sometimes repeated a few times if
disturbed when the whir of its wings can also be heard. Once you hear
this call is it unmistakable.
Irish Name: Ceolaire Cíbe Latin Name: Acrocephalus schoenobaenus Length: 13cm
Warbler is a summer visitor to Ireland and is "the" sound of a reed bed
in summer. A small pale brown bird with a dark crown. It winters in Africa,
south of the Sahara Desert and returns to Ireland in March and April.
It nests mainly in reed beds, bogs and around lakes. It is an insect eater
and is rarely seen far from fresh water. It is known to mimic other birds
and mixes these "robbed" sounds with it's own chatter which can go on
for over a minute. They will often sing from the top of a reed or nearby
bush, sometimes in flight. When you hear it for the first time it can
sound like a number of birds singing together. Once it has found a mate
it usually stops singing while unpaired birds will continue to sing will
into July. It returns to Africa in August and early September.
Irish Name: Meantán Gorm Latin Name: Parus caeruleus Length: 12 cm
Tit should be very familiar to those who feed birds during the winter.
It regularly visits bird tables and peanut feeders. If you have a peanut
feeder out all year round it will sometimes bring its young to the feeder
in August or September. The male and female are very similar in appearance.
Its best identification feature is its blue cap surrounded by a thin white
halo. It nests in crevices and wall cavities and will raise as many as
eight young every year. During the breeding season it hunts for insects
and caterpillars and rarely stays in the one place for very long. If you
have put up a nest box with a small entrance hole in it the Blue Tit will
probably become your most frequent tenant. When defending its territory
it will sing and call very noisily, usually from the top of a tree or
Irish Name: Tiuf-teaf Latin Name: Phylloscopus collybita Length: 11 cm
This bird is a long distant migrant, which, like the Swallow spends the winter
in Africa south of the Sahara. In recent years some have spent the winter
in Ireland. It arrives in Ireland before the Swallow, usually in late
March. It is a very small bird, smaller than a Robin, with not obvious
plumage markings. The plumage is a combination of pale yellow, green and
brown and is almost identical in appearance to its close relative the
Willow Warbler. In fact the best way to identify it is by its song. It
gets its name from its song which it a stuttering "Chiff-chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff…."
that it usually sings from the top of trees. It is an insect eater and
moves through the leaf canopy searching every leaf for food or occasionally
flying out from its perch to catch a passing insect. It departs for Africa
in August and September.
Irish Name: Gealóg Dhucheannac Latin Name: Emberiza schoeniclus Length: 15 cm
Bunting gets its name from the fact that it regularly breeds in reed beds.
It is usually never far from fresh water. It will also breed in low bushes
and scrubland. It is an easy bird to recognise by its song once you hear
it a few times. The male has a black head, white neck collar, white mustache
and white outer tail feathers. The female is browner and sparrow like.
Its song is virtually the same phrase repeated at regular intervals from
low bushes and reed stems. When singing the male often throws its head
back, pointing its beak to the sky and on a warm summers evening its song
will travel far over the wetland where it breeds. Like many birds it feeds
on insects in the summer but changes to a diet of seeds during the winter
months. It can also wander far reed beds outside the breeding season.
Irish Name: Fuiseóg Latin Name: Alauda arvensis Length: 19 cm
is one of our most celebrated songbirds. Its vibrant song has inspired
traditional aires, poetry and songs. It is sandy brown in appearance with
long legs, a short crest and white outer tail feathers. It is usually
seen singing high in the air or running silently through long grass. It
is a species that is fast disappearing from our countryside. Changes in
farming practices in the 20th century has led to a very sharp decline
in hay meadows, a favourite nesting place. There is an old saying, "up
with the lark", referring to those of us who rise early in the morning.
This saying comes from the fact the in the past, in open countryside,
it was one of the first birds to sing in the morning and the air would
be full of its long twittering song. It usually sings while flying ever
higher in the air until it is almost out of sight before it drops gradually
to the ground where it stops singing and disappears into the long grass.
Irish Name: Glasán Darach Latin Name: Carduelis chloris Length: 15 cm
should be familiar to those who feed birds in their gardens. It gets its
name from the green colour of its plumage, more obvious in males than
females or young birds. It also has yellow on the wings and tail. Greenfinches
nest in loose colonies and the male can be heard singing, usually from
the very top of a tree but also in flight when it flies on uncharacteristic
slow, gliding wing beats. The song is very beautiful and can be long with
a variety of sweet notes "churps "and "tweets". There is also a characteristic
wheezing sound in the song. Sometimes it will sing only parts of the entire
song and it will also just sing the wheezing sound repeatedly over and
over. It nests in a variety of habitats and can sometimes be found nesting
in large Yew or Leylandia trees in the grounds of old churches and graveyards.
Irish Name: Colm Coille Latin Name: Columba palumbus Length: 41 cm
With its short legs and fat looking body the Woodpigeon is one of the largest
birds of Irish woodlands. Its large size, grey plumage with a white neck
patch and large white crescents on the wings make it easy to identify.
When looked at closely the grey plumage is iridescent give pink, green
and blue tints to the feathers of the body and wings. It usually feeds
on young leaves, flowers and seeds. It is the baritone of the dawn chorus.
Its cooing song is phrased like "Take two John (brief pause) take two".
It is often more vocal in the evening than in the morning. When displaying
during courtship it flies upward in a broad arc then claps its wings together
and glides down in another arc.
Irish Name: Meantán Mór Latin Name: Parus major Length: 14 cm
A very colourful
bird and largest of the Tit family. It also comes to peanut feeders and
garden bird tables in the winter. The male and female are similar in appearance
but the distinctive black line that rus down the center of its underside
is noticeably thicker on the male than on the female. So varied are its
calls and songs that among bird watchers, it is often said that if you
cannot identify the sound of a bird you cannot see then it must be a Great
Tit. One song that is easily recognised sounds like a loud "Teacher-Teacher-Teacher-Teacher-Teacher!".
It will use nestboxes. The hole has to be bigger than that for a Blue
Tit. Sometimes if the hole is nearly large enough it will enlarge the
hole by removing wood from around the edge with its strong beak.