Red Leg, Warden of the Marshes
Status: Resident, winter visitor from Iceland and passage migrant (birds on passage from Scandinavia/the Baltic breeding areas to west African wintering areas). Highest numbers occur during the early autumn, when there is overlap of the populations.
Conservation Concern: Red-listed in Ireland, due to its small and declining breeding population. The European population has been evaluated as Declining, due to a moderate continuing decline.
Identification: As the name suggests, its most distinctive feature is the leg colour - bright red. A common wader of wetlands throughout the country, though mainly coastal estuaries in winter. A generally mouse brown bird with dark streaking. Bill medium length and straight, reddish at the base. Legs relatively long. Can occur in quite large numbers at the larger estuaries.
Call: An hyterical, piercing "tew…hoo, tew…hoo", always loud - often scaring other birds away. Persisitent "tew.. tew...tew.." at breeding grounds.
Diet: Detect prey visually and feed mostly during the day along the upper shore of estuaries and along muddy river channels. Feed singly or in small groups, and their prey consists mostly of Hydrobia sp., Corophium sp. and nereid worms
Breeding: Nests on the ground in grassy tussock, in wet, marshy areas and occasionally heather. Adults often keep guard standing on fence posts or high rocks. Breeds mainly in midlands (especially Shannon Callows) and northern half of the country, but not commonly anywhere in Ireland.
Wintering: Winters all around the coasts of Ireland, Britain and many European countries. Favours mudflats, large estuaries and inlets. Smaller numbers at inland lakes and large rivers.
Where to see: Strangford Lough in County Down, Shannon & Fergus Estuary in County Clare, Cork Harbour in County Cork, Belfast Lough in County Down, Dundalk Bay in County Louth and Dublin Bay in County Dublin support highest numbers (2,000- 4,000 birds).
Monitored by: Irish Wetland Bird Survey.