Common Crane chicks have hatched in Ireland for the second year running. The pair nested at an undisclosed location in central Ireland last year putting an end to a 300-year absence from the country, although neither of last year’s chicks reached fledging stage.
The cranes nested earlier this year on Bord na Móna peatlands in the Midlands, which were rewetted as part of their ongoing bog rehabilitation works to encourage the return of indigenous flora and fauna to the Irish countryside.
In January 2021, Bord na Móna ceased peat harvesting for good and has been rehabilitating thousands of hectares of bogs. Some 18 sites were rewetted in 2021, amounting to an area of 8,000 ha. A further 19 will be rehabilitated in 2022. Bord Na Móna has also announced that 33,000 hectares is to be rehabilitated as part of its Peatlands Climate Action Scheme that will operate with €108 million in Government funding and €18m from Bord na Móna.
Ireland’s cranes became extinct sometime between 1600 and 1700, due to overhunting by humans and foxes, as well as destruction of their natural habitat. The migratory birds that stand over a metre tall have deep connections to Irish culture and history. They appear in folklore tales such as those of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and in The Book Of Kells.
Unfortunately, they were also a popular food item for people at the time, and their ease of capture by foxes and the draining of wetlands resulted in their demise in the 16th century. Conservation works in the UK have brought their Crane population from 0 to over 200 in the past 50 years. This has led to increases in crane sightings in Irish skies in recent years during migration and over-wintering.
The evidence presented here describes the first confirmed breeding in Ireland since potentially the end of the 16th century, and possibly reflects the ongoing trends of species expansion, alongside increased availability of suitable breeding habitat for this species in supporting potential expansion. MKO are privileged to have been involved in survey work which led to the identification of breeding Crane in Ireland. In this instance, the location of the pair is on land with no public access, and the breeding location remains confidential. However, it is hoped that should these birds establish, a safe and sustainable mechanism for viewing and appreciation by all can be developed in the future.
Given the likelihood of birds returning to attempt breeding, several pro-active conservation measures are currently under consideration by the landowner in consultation with other relevant stakeholders and bodies. These may include predator deterrents, where applicable, or hydrological regime management to optimise habitat conditions for future breeding attempts.
Copland, A.S., et al, (2022) Confirmed breeding of Common Crane (Grus grus) in Ireland. Irish Birds 2022 Number 44 (pages 99-103).