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Tallaghts' Birdlife

Artwork of birds courtesy of Mike Langman
Blackbird Grey Wagtail Mistle Thrush Song Thrush
Blue Tit Herring Gull Moorhen Starling
Common Gull House Sparrow Mute Swan Swallow
Coot Jackdaw Pied Wagtail Tufted Duck
Goldcrest Kingfisher Raven Wood Pigeon
Goldfinch Mallard Robin Wren
Grey Heron Magpie Rook Birdlife Activities
Blackbird drawing

The Blackbird

The males live up to their name but females are brown, often with spots and streaks on their breasts. The bright orange-yellow beak and eye-ring make adult male blackbirds one of the most attractive garden birds. They like areas with bushes, shrubs and trees, and nearby open ground and short grass where they search for insects, worms and berries. They can be seen all year round.

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Blue Tit drawing

The Blue Tit

Its mixture of blue, yellow, white and green make the blue tit one of the most colourful garden birds you’ll see. Blue tits eat insects, caterpillars, seeds and nuts. You’ll find blue tits in parks and gardens, and they are attracted to nest boxes and bird tables.

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The Common Gull

It looks like a smaller version of the herring gull, with greenish legs and a yellow bill, They are now seen more often in towns and on housing estates in winter. In winter they like to spend their time on farmland, playing fields, lakes, reservoirs and coasts. They can often be seen following the plough on farmland. They eat worms, insects, fish, carrion and rubbish.

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Coot drawing

The Coot

The coot, which is all-black in colour is slightly larger than its cousin, the moorhen. Look out for its white beak, and the white shield above the beak. Coots eat vegetation, snails and insect larvae. Coots are good divers, and they sometimes seem to be running over the water.

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Goldcrest drawing

The Goldcrest

The goldcrest is Ireland's smallest songbird and is dull green above and buff white below with an orange or yellow crown stripe. In winter it will join with flocks of tits and other woodland species. It suffers in very cold winters. Goldcrests are found almost wherever there are trees and bushes, especially conifers, and in suburban parks and large gardens. A look at its beak will tell you it likes to eat insects.

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Goldfinch drawing

The Goldfinch

The goldfinch’s face is red, white and black. The yellow band on their wings will also help you recognize them. Their long fine beaks allow them to extract seeds from thistles. They will also eat insects in summer.

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Grey Heron drawing

The Grey Heron

The grey heron is the largest European heron. It can stand with neck stretched out, looking for food, or hunch down with its neck bent over its chest. It is usually seen alone although several birds may feed fairly close together. It stalks its food, often standing without moving for a long time. It usually feeds close to the bank or shore, but may wade out into shallow water. Sometimes the grey heron will steal fish from garden ponds.

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Grey Wagtail drawing

The Grey Wagtail

The grey wagtail is more colourful than its name suggests. It has grey upper parts and lemon yellow under the tail. Its tail is noticeably longer than those of pied wagtails. You are most likely to see this beautiful bird near river and streams, nearby woodland or scrub and waterside shingle or rocks. Man-made structures such as bridge supports and canal-side brickwork are also popular. Their favourite food is insects.

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Herring Gull drawing

The Herring Gull

Herring gulls are large, noisy gulls found throughout the year around coasts and inland around rubbish tips, fields, reservoirs and lakes, especially during winter. This gull is Ireland’s most common gull. Adults have light grey backs, white under parts, and black wing tips. Their legs are pink, with webbed feet and they have heavy, slightly hooked bills marked with a red spot Herring gulls are omnivorous – they are scavengers, and will eat almost anything. The young gulls tap the red spot on the parents’ bill to get food.

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House Sparrow drawing

The House Sparrow

These small, noisy birds are found all over the world, especially where man is, and they take advantage of man’s wastefulness. They eat seeds and scraps, and are a common sight in towns, parks and gardens. They often build their nests in holes in houses, and otherwise they will use bushes. You can tell the male because he has a black bib.

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Jackdaw drawing

The Jackdaw

The jackdaw is s small black crow with a grey neck and pale eyes. It is sociable and usually seen in pairs or larger groups. It is quite a skilful flier and flocks will often chase and tumble together in flight. On the ground it both walks and hops. Jackdaws can be seen almost anywhere throughout the year, as they search for insects, seeds and scraps.

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Kingfisher drawing

The Kingfisher

Kingfishers are small but unmistakable, with their bright blue and orange plumage and long bills. They fly very quickly, low over water, and hunt fish from riverside perches, sometimes hovering above the water’s surface. They dig out nesting holes in the banks near shallow water. Their favourite food is (you guessed it….!) fish, but they will also eat insects that live near water. Before it eats a fish it beats it off a branch to kill it.

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Magpie drawing

The Magpie

Magpies are found all over Ireland. It’s hard to mistake them: they’re noisy and cheeky, and with their black-and-white plumage and long tail, it is difficult to mistake them. They are omnivores and scavengers: they will eat almost anything they can find, and they see nothing wrong with stealing! They sometimes steal food left out for cats and dogs. A large group of magpies is called a magpie parliament!

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Mallard drawing

The Mallard

The mallard is a large and heavy looking duck, with a long body and a long and broad bill. The male has a dark green head, a yellow bill, is mainly purple-brown on the breast and grey on the body. The female is mainly brown with an orange bill. It breeds in all parts of the Ireland in summer and winter. It is the most common duck and most widespread so you have a chance of seeing it just about anywhere where there is suitable wetland habitat, even in urban areas. They eat seeds, acorns and berries, plants, insects and shellfish, but get most of their food from close to the water's surface. The male is called a drake.

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Mistle Thrush drawing

The Mistle Thrush

This is a pale, black-spotted thrush - large and powerful. It stands boldly upright and bounds across the ground while in flight, it has long wings and its tail has whitish edges. It is most likely to be noticed perched high at the top of a tree or roof, singing or giving its rattling call in flight. The mistle thrush likes to eat worms, slugs, insects and berries.

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Moorhen drawing

The Moorhen

The moorhen is a medium-sized bird, that is usually found near water. From a distance it looks black with a ragged white line along its body. Up close you can see that it is olive-brown on the back and the head and underneath is blue-grey. It has a red bill with a yellow tip. There’s a chance of seeing a moorhen anywhere where there is water – from a small ditch or a lake in a city centre park, to a big lake or reservoir. They eat water plants, seeds, fruit, grasses, insects, snails and worms.

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Mute Swan drawing

The Mute Swan

The mute swan is Ireland’s largest wild bird. It has a long S-shaped neck, and an orange bill with black at the base of it. Swans eat water plants, insects, frogs, worms and snails. They are mostly silent, but they hiss when angry or if they feel threatened. Young swans are called cygnets. The male is called a cob and the female is called a pen. The male and female usually mate for life. The female lays up to seven eggs between late April and early May. The nest is a huge mound of material, normally dried grasses and pieces of vegetation, sticks and rushes, built at the waters edge. The nest is built by the female, while the male supplies the materials. Both cob and pen will incubate the eggs.

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Pied Wagtail drawing

The Pied Wagtail

It’s not too hard to recognize a pied wagtail: with their black and white colouring, their long tail and busy nature, it’s hard to get the name wrong. They can be found all over Ireland, often near water but can be found in most habitats, even town centres. They gather together in large roosts, sometimes in towns, often assembling on roofs beforehand. You can see them all year round as they busily hunt for their favourite food – insects.

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Raven drawing

The Raven

The raven is a big black bird, the largest member of the crow family. It is all black with a large bill, a wedge-shaped tail and long wings. In flight, it shows a diamond-shaped tail. It mainly eats carrion. It scavenges for food, but will also kill smaller birds and mammals. Sometimes you will see ravens soaring in the sky, just like a bird of prey.

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Robin drawing

The Robin

Males and females look identical, and young birds have no red breast and are spotted with golden brown. Robins sing nearly all year round and even though they look quite cute, they are very territorial and are quick to drive away intruders. The only purpose of a robin's red breast is in territory defence. They will sing at night next to street lights. They like woodlands, parks and gardens with plenty of undergrowth. There they can be seen searching for worms, seeds, fruits and insects. Robins are famous for nesting in all kinds of unlikely locations, including sheds, kettles, boots, hanging baskets, coat pockets, under car bonnets, in farm machinery, even on boats.

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Rook drawing

The Rook

Rooks have a bare, greyish-white face, and their thin beak and peaked head separate them from the carrion crow. Rooks are very sociable birds, and you’re not likely to see one on its own. They feed and roost in flocks in winter, often together with jackdaws. Rooks prefer open fields, especially grassland, and plenty of tall trees close by where they build their nests together in a rookery. They will come into town parks and villages but largely keep clear of the middle of big towns and cities. They eat worms, grain and insects.

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Song Thrush drawing

The Song Thrush

The song thrush is smaller and browner than a mistle thrush with smaller spotting. Its habit of repeating its song helps us to recognize it. It likes to eat snails which it breaks into by smashing them against a stone with a flick of the head.They can be found in woods, hedgerows, parks and gardens - wherever there are there are bushes and trees. They eat worms, snails and fruit. The song thrush’s nest, built entirely by the female, is low down in any suitable cover, including trees and shrubs, among creepers on walls, on ledges, and on the ground amongst thick vegetation. It is a neat structure of twigs, grass and moss, cemented together and thickly lined with mud, dung and rotten wood, often mixed with leaves. It can take three weeks to complete. Sometimes the same nest is used for successive broods.

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Starling drawing

The Starling

Smaller than blackbirds, with a short tail, pointed head, triangular wings, starlings look black at a distance but when seen closer they are very glossy with a sheen of purples and greens. Their flight is fast and direct and they walk and run confidently on the ground. You can see starlings in open woodland and woodland edges, hedgerows, parks and gardens - wherever there are suitable trees with nest holes. Their favourite food includes insects and fruit. You can tell the sexes apart by the colour of the base of the bill - blue for males, pink for females! Starlings are famous for being mimics, and they can include accurate copies of sounds of other birds, frogs and mammals, and even of mechanical sounds into their song. They have been known to copy a dog’s bark and a referee’s whistle!

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Swallow drawing

The Swallow

Swallows are small birds with dark glossy blue backs, red throats, pale underparts and long tail streamers. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time in the air. They can even drink while flying by flying low over a river and dipping its bill into the water. Swallows are found in areas where there is a good supply of small insects. They are particularly fond of open fields with access to water and quiet farm buildings. The best time to see swallows is between April and October. They spend the winter in Southern Africa. They wouldn’t survive here because there would not be enough insects! Migrating swallows cover about 200 miles a day, mainly during daylight, at speeds of 17-22 miles per hour. The maximum flight speed is 35 mph. They prefer to nest near domestic animals, most often in cow and pig sheds and stables. They sometimes nest under bridges, in wells and mineshafts, and even chimney stacks. They occasionally use very odd places, including inhabited rooms and regularly moving vehicles.

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Tufted Duck drawing

The Tufted Duck

The tufted duck is a medium-sized diving duck, smaller than a mallard. It is black on the head, neck, breast and back and white on the sides. It has a small crest and a yellow eye. Like most birds, the male has the most attractive colouring. The female is mostly brown in colour.They eat shellfish, insects and some plants.

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Wood Pigeon drawing

The Wood Pigeon

The wood pigeon is largely grey with a white neck patch and white wing patches, clearly visible in flight. Although shy in the countryside it can be tame and approachable in towns and cities. Its cooing call is a familiar sound in woodlands as is the loud clatter of its wings when it flies away. These pigeons like to eat crops like cabbages, sprouts, peas and grain, as well as buds, shoots, seeds, nuts and berries.

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Wren drawing

The Wren

The wren is a tiny brown bird, one of the smallest you are likely to see. It is dumpy, with a fine bill, quite long legs and toes, very short round wings and a short, narrow tail which is sometimes cocked up vertically. For such a small bird it has a very loud voice. Wrens eat insects and spiders. The male wren builds a few different nests – and the female then picks the one she wants!

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