Wintering Waterbirds

Ireland is situated along the east Atlantic flyway for waterbirds that breed in more northerly latitudes. It is our typical mild and wet winters that make the wetlands of Ireland such an important resource for over three-quarters of a million of these waterbirds each year.

Over 50 species of waterbird migrate here either on passage to or from more southerly resorts or to spend the entire winter here. They seek out the relatively undisturbed wetland areas for ice-free feeding conditions and for safe roosting opportunities. In some cases significant proportions of the biogeographic populations of waterbird overwinter here (e.g. Light-bellied Brent Goose, Black-tailed Godwit, Whooper Swan, Greenland White-fronted Goose and Ringed Plover).

The Irish Wetland Bird Survey (I-WeBS) is the primary scheme that monitors overwintering waterbird populations in Ireland on an annual basis. The focus of the survey is largely on those wetland sites (e.g. estuaries and inland lakes) that hold internationally and nationally important congregations of waterbirds.

As the survey window extends from September to March inclusive passage birds can also be recorded. Further information on the latest species population trends  and wetland site survey summaries can be accessed here.

Species surveys and censuses are also taken on regular intervals for particular swan and geese species including barnacle goose and whooper swan. Over the last 30 years NPWS has been involved in the monitoring the monitoring and research of the Greenland white-fronted goose population that overwinters in Ireland – more information can be found here