Iconic bird flocks to Ireland for Christmas break

Waxwings, one of the most iconic Christmas birds, have flocked into Ireland in their greatest numbers for years.

The striking birds, which migrate from Lapland and even sound like sleigh bells, have been spotted in most parts of the country over the past week.

The birds, which are instantly recognisable by their distinctive reddish-brown crest, tend to congregate in urban areas every winter, ornithologists say they’ve arrived in increased numbers and have travelled further west than usual, to counties such as Kerry and Sligo.

Experts believe up to 5,000 of the birds have migrated from their summer Scandinavian homes to both Ireland and Britain.

Niall Hatch, development officer with Birdwatch Ireland, said a failure of the berry crop across Arctic regions is likely to have caused the large migration.

He said: “There have been lots of reports of sightings of waxwings over the past week. They are winter visitors, but tend to go to urban areas.

“The largest concentrations have been in the east of the country, but they’ve been spotted everywhere.”

He said experts at BirdWatch Ireland would have a better idea of the estimated number of visitors in the next few weeks.

In Britain, BirdGuides has also noted a rise in the number of waxwings which have migrated to both Ireland and Britain.

Fiona Barclay, spokeswoman for the group, said: “Waxwings always prove popular and, with their punk crests and twinkling sleigh-bell call, they’re always a joy to watch.”


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