Egyptian Vulture is seen in Ireland for only the second time

Egyptian Vulture is seen in Ireland for only the second time

Picture: Conor Henry, via National Parks and Wildlife Service

For just the second time ever, a rare Egyptian Vulture has been spotted in Ireland.

The bird, a male, was observed in Roscommon on New Year's Eve by the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) warden for Lough Rea and the Mid-Shannon Callows, Owen Murphy.

Mr Murphy said the sighting was "a fairly chance encounter", explaining that, as he was driving to a spot on Lough Rea’s western shore to conduct monitoring work, a relatively large bird flying in the distance caught his eye.

"I happened to have the binoculars beside me on the passenger seat, and when I got a safe place to pull in, I looked back across, and it turned out to be an Egyptian Vulture: Not something I was expecting to see on a New Year's Eve morning." 

He said he was able to identify the bird, which is nicknamed 'the white scavenger vulture' or 'pharaoh's chicken', by its size, and its brown/white plumage and narrow beak. 

After the vulture moved on, Mr Murphy posted about the sighting on a prominent Irish birdwatching Facebook page. 

Thereafter, a local student, Conor Henry, journeyed to the Lough Rea area with his camera and relocated and photographed the bird later in the afternoon.

The Egyptian Vulture in flight. Picture: Conor Henry, via National Parks and Wildlife Service
The Egyptian Vulture in flight. Picture: Conor Henry, via National Parks and Wildlife Service

The sighting marks just the second time an Egyptian Vulture has been seen on this island. The first recorded sighting occurred in the north of the country during the summer. 

While Mr Murphy believes this sighting believes is "more than likely the same bird", he said this cannot be 100% confirmed. 

He said he and his colleagues are unsure how and why the vulture, which is more commonly seen in southern Europe and northern Africa, ended up in Ireland.

"Whether he got caught in a thermal and got disorientated, we don't know. It's a mystery as to why it ended up here," he told RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland.

The sighting has caused something of a stir in Irish birdwatching circles, with a number of people travelling from around the country to Lough Rea in the hopes of glimpsing it.

According to a recent report from the NPWS, the Lough Rea area is the most important site for breeding waterbirds in Ireland. The Shannon Callow area, which is close by, is also rated highly.

Both sites boast significant numbers of threatened red- and amber-listed bird species, with other 'rarities' popping up on occasion. 

A spokesperson for the NPWS said that the Egyptian Vulture does not pose a threat to the public or to livestock, because while it is a bird of prey, it does not hunt, preferring to eat roadkill or other dead animals it happens across.

Picture: Conor Henry, via National Parks and Wildlife Service
Picture: Conor Henry, via National Parks and Wildlife Service

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