Headlands and coastlines in Kerry, Cork, Waterford and Wexford have been invaded by a rather colourful continental interloper this spring.
The striking hoopoe (Upupa epops) is a rare visitor to these shores, with very small numbers (less than 10 birds in total most years) reported in Ireland during spring and autumn as migrating birds stray off course and end up making landfall on the Irish coast. This spring has yielded a hoopoe bonanza for birders, with birds overshooting their intended destinations on the continent and turning up in numbers on the Irish coast in numbers, with at least 45 birds reported so far, and more being spotted every day.
According to Birdwatch Ireland, the last time so many birds were recorded in a single year was back in 1965, when a total of 65 birds was recorded — but with more hoopoe records being reported every day it’s quite possible this year could be a record breaker.
Birdwatch Ireland is asking that members of the public report all hoopoe sightings to them via [email protected] or by calling their Kilcoole headquarters on 01 2819878.
With high numbers of birds turning up, and the fact that some are being seen in groups of twos and threes, some are speculating that a few might pair up and decide to stay in Ireland to breed. However, with no historical confirmed records of breeding for Ireland, and only one suspected case in 1934 the chances would appear to be slim. With enough birds in the country though, and given favourable conditions and the availability of suitable nesting sites, you never know.
Hoopes tend to favour short cropped grassy areas with nearby cover where they can forage for their insect prey. Roadside verges, lawns, grassy lanes and golf courses are all potentially good hoopoe habitat. So keep your eyes peeled if you’re along the south coast… and if you are lucky enough to see a hoopoe please report it to Birdwatch Ireland using the details given above.
Photo credit: Hoopoe, Co. Waterford © all rights reserved, Andrew Malcolm, West Waterford Wildlife Photography, used with permission