Giant Cranes Return To Ireland After 300 Years

After a 300-year absence, a gigantic bird that has been part of Irish tradition and was frequently kept as a pet in medieval times could be resettling on the emerald Isle. In the Republic of Ireland’s midlands, a couple of cranes are nesting atop a ‘re-wetted’ peat bog.

It is hoped that the ‘stately’ soarers will be the first of the species to breed in Ireland in hundreds of years. The cranes are on territory owned by Bord na Móna, a former peat production company. To safeguard the birds, the site will be kept secret. Bord na Móna stopped collecting peat in January and began repairing hundreds of hectares of boglands by re-wetting the drained areas which very likely had a part to play.

Pete was traditionally used for Ireland’s energy, though the change of course will prevent the current leaking of carbon which is environmentally unsound for helping to stop global warming.

Bord na Móna tweeted that “We just recorded a pair of Cranes nesting at a spot on a rewetted bog, which is a sighting of exceptional relevance. They will be the first Common Cranes to breed in Ireland in 300 years if they succeed.”

The Significance of the Sighting of Cranes

Mark McCorry, the company’s head biologist, said the return of the nesting pair of cranes was extremely significant. “While these birds come to Ireland in the winter, we haven’t seen them during the nesting season,” he explained.

“When they were discovered last year, they were the first pair in a nest during the breeding season.” So, the fact that they appear to be preparing to re-colonize Ireland is a really good sign. “It’s a really iconic creature in Ireland, and it’s also extremely related with folklore – there are numerous stories about it.”

Mr. McCorry expressed “reasonable optimism” that the birds would breed successfully. “They didn’t succeed last year, but they did lay eggs. We were unable to confirm the presence of any young, but this is not unusual for cranes “he stated. “When these birds pair up when they’re young, it usually takes them a few years, or several attempts, before they become successful breeders.”

The wetland cutaway habitat is quite similar to what they use in Northern Europe for breeding.  The area they are using has re-wetted naturally but in the next 10-20 years rehabilitation we’ll be creating conditions and new habitats for this species. BnM have started a very ambitious rehabilitation programme and in time more sites will become suitable for the Common Crane.

The reappearance of the Cranes ion a re-wetted cutaway is just one positive indicators for the benefits of re-wetting peatlands. These areas were bare peat only a short period ago. Now they a mosaic of wetland habitats with Reeds, bog cotton, Sedges and many other wetland species.

Mark McCorry, Head Biologist for Bord na Móna Speaking to FantasticWildlife.com

Fantastic Facts About Cranes

  • The book of Celts written by monks featured illustrations of cranes. Their nests were revered as sacred places.
  • Cranes migrate in large numbers to Siberia each year with about 100,000 settling there.
  • Cranes became extinct in the UK 400 years ago.
  • Every two years cranes completely moult, and are unable to fly for about 6 weeks.
  • A couple settled in Britain in 1979 after flying off course and were looked after; now the species number around 160.

Possibilities of an Increasing Crane Population

A juvenile crane was discovered at an estuary in County Dublin last autumn, suggesting that the species has already begun to re-establish itself in Ireland, according to Mr McCorry. “If it was a juvenile crane, it would be suspected that it bred someplace in Ireland,” Mr McCorry said. “There are possibilities that there could be other birds here now, and maybe it may have been the Bord na Móna pair that produced this young, or it could have been from another pair someplace else,” says the researcher.

After 300 Years Cranes have Returned to Ireland
Giant Cranes Return To Ireland After 300 Years

Physical Description and Characteristics of Cranes

Cranes can reach a height of 1.2m (4ft) and have a wingspan of more than 7ft. They have slate great throats and dark grey heads; their wings are white with slate grey undersides. The tail feathers are also dark.

They’re famous for their intricate “display” behavior, which includes bows, pirouettes, and bobs. They were once numerous in Ireland, but habitat damage, meat hunting, and predators such as foxes caused them to become extinct sometime between 1600 and 1700.

Realistic Optimism of a Settlement of Cranes

Birdwatch Ireland’s Niall Hatch said it would be “great” if the “amazing species” came back.

“It’s the largest bird most people will ever see in Ireland, it’s massive, and it’s an important part of our history. It would be wonderful to get it back.”

Birdwatch Ireland’s Niall Hatch

Mr. Hatch stated that bogland drainage had caused the biggest damage to cranes and other species, and that Bord na Móna’s restoration efforts was critical. “We’re hoping that if things improve in Ireland, more of them will return, particularly if they breed and rear chicks,” he said.

“The goal is that those chicks would return in future years and begin to breed in the same regions, allowing the population to grow.” After 400 years of absence as a breeding bird in Britain, an estimated 200 cranes can now be found in Wales, Scotland, the English Fens, Suffolk, and Gloucestershire.

Mr. Hatch said there had been an increase in reports of cranes flying over Ireland and landing, including a flock of five near Wexford a few years ago. There have been a few sightings in Northern Ireland, the most recent of which was in 2016 in Lough McNean in Fermanagh.

Habitat of Cranes in Ireland

Lowland bogs and other vast wetlands, according to RSPB Northern Ireland ecologist Matthew Tickner, would be their preferred environment because they prefer to be undisturbed when mating. “We have some of this habitat in Northern Ireland,” he continued, “but not on the same magnitude as the Republic. As a result, if cranes began to appear further north, freedom from disturbance could become a restraint.”

“With Britain’s population beginning to grow, I expect we’ll start to see more of the birds on the island of Ireland in the future, so it may depend on how any such wandering pioneers react to the surroundings we have to offer.”

Reason Behind the Increase of Crane Population

Common cranes, which returned to England after a 400-year absence, are now there to stay, according to studies. The number of breeding pairs of cranes in the UK could increase by 50% in the next 50 years.

In 2010, efforts to introduce the UK’s tallest bird to various sections of the UK, Wales and Scotland began. Currently, there are 178 pairs, but a study expects a 50% increase to 275 pairs in the next 50 years. The University of Exeter, the RSPB, and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have all conducted research into the crane population (WWT).

Cranes were extinct as a breeding bird in the UK in the 16th century due to hunting and the drainage of extensive regions of wetlands, but some reappeared in the east of England in 1979. Conservationists supported the small population, but it reproduced slowly and remained low in numbers for the following two decades, putting the population at risk of extinction if disease struck.

Q & A About Cranes

Is it true that Ireland has cranes?

Despite the fact that cranes have been extinct in Ireland since the 1700s, sightings of them in Irish skies have increased in recent years during migration and overwintering.

After 300 Years Cranes have Returned to Ireland
After 300 Years Cranes have Returned to Ireland

Do cranes travel in groups?

On their wintering habitats and during migration, Sandhill Cranes assemble massive flocks that number in the tens of thousands. They frequently move at great altitudes.

What kind of cranes can you find in Ireland?

During the winter, the common crane can be observed in Ireland, but not during the nesting season.

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