What is a
The term wader is used by birdwatchers to describe closely related
species which share features such as relatively long legs, long
beaks and spend most of their time in wetland areas in winter.
There are a few exceptions such as the Grey Phalarope, which spends
the winter on the open sea! The term wader is also sometimes used
to describe some members of the Heron family as they hunt for food
by wading in shallow water.
Waders can be described as birds that live on the edge. The edge
referring to that area of ground between dry land and salt or fresh
water. Most avoid swimming and so are pushed back and forth by
coming and going of the tide
Where to look for waders
Waders on an estuary at dawn
Waders can be found all around our coast especially on estuaries
and sandy beaches but also on rocky areas. Some species such as the
Oystercatcher and Black-tailed Godwit will also feed on wet and
damp grassland. One of our most abundant winter visitors, the
Golden Plover, rarely feed on estuaries, spending almost all their
time feeding in fields. The distinctive black and white form of the
Oystercatcher is a familiar sight on playing fields in winter.
Waders such as Snipe prefer boggy areas and Turnstone and Purple
Sandpipers like rocky shores.
Where do they come from?
To give an idea of how important Ireland is for waders the table
below, click on the links below to illustrate the number of
countries whose breeding waders depend on Ireland during the winter
and on migration.
As well as these regular visitors there is always the chance of
a rare visitor. These birds usually appear in the autumn or spring,
at the height of the migration period but also turn up at any other
time of the year.
Most are blown off course by strong winds and come from North
America and Asia. When trying to identify a wader always eliminates
the common species before considering what you have seen is a
All images and text © Jim Wilson 2001.