Kildare Wildlife Watch: Discover a winter visitor to Irish coasts

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Kildare Wildlife Watch: Discover a winter visitor to Irish coasts

The red-throated diver. Picture: Daniel Camier

This week I have not actually identified this species in my community. I was going through some files on my desktop at work and came across an image of a bird species that was given to the Irish Peatland Conservation Council by a local photographer.

I was not familiar with the species so I spent some time finding out a little about it and after that thought why not share with you what I had learnt!

This week, let’s explore a little about the red-throated diver (lóma rua as Gaeilge). As you can imagine, the colour of its throat makes for a distinguishing feature of this bird.

With restrictions on movement and the fact that the red-throated diver is a winter visitor to Ireland’s coast, we will have to wait until we can leave our county before we can experience this coastal bird.

All year the feathers of this bird are grey/brown in colour — however in spring the neck feathers change to a dark red during the breeding season, I am presuming for some type of courtship ritual between the male and females.

Their diet consists of mainly fish but they will also feed on frogs and smaller invertebrates (an animal without a backbone) if necessary.

As this bird’s name suggests, it is adapted to search for food under water and I read online that this bird can hold its breath under water for up to 1.5 minutes.

They spend most of their time on the water only venturing onto land to nest.

The young are darker in colour when compared to the adults, with brown plumage, but this quickly fades.

According to BirdWatch Ireland, only a few pairs of the red-throated diver are believed to actually nest in Co Donegal. As winter visitors, many return to their nesting grounds further north in Scotland and Scandanavia in spring to rear their young.

When restrictions on movements ease, will you make your way to the coast in search of this winter visitor to Ireland’s shores?

If you would like help identifying or to learn more about a wildlife species contact me via e-mail

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