Dublin Bay Birds Project: Colour-marked birds take to the air

BirdWatch Ireland, Dublin Port Company and Dublin Bay Biosphere working on a programme of waterbird monitoring and research within Dublin Bay.

Dublin Bay is among the top-ten most important wetlands in Ireland for migratory wintering waterbirds. These birds avail of a broad diversity of resources from within this estuarine environment, as well as in the surrounding areas. Anyone who is familiar with Dublin’s amenity grasslands, such as parks and playing pitches, may have witnessed the dense flocks of seemingly tame geese that congregate during the day and fly across the city to roost in Dublin Bay. It is perhaps surprising that these Light-bellied Brent Geese, that migrate from remote regions of high Arctic Canada, should be so content to gather in such a populated site during the winter.


Then again there is safety in numbers, and at Dublin Bay there is no shortage, with in excess of 30,000 waterbirds spending the winter in the bay each year. This new project aims to examine in much greater detail than ever before how birds use the Dublin Bay habitats for feeding and for roosting, and to investigate movements between Dublin Bay and neighbouring wetlands. We will be undertaking a three-year programme of counts and observations focussed on examining the key areas used, and will be continuing the monitoring of important breeding tern colonies within Dublin Port itself, started by the late Oscar Merne. 

During this project, we will also catch and colour-mark a large selection of birds, and we are initially focussing our efforts on three wader species, namely Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit and Redshank, because Dublin Bay holds internationally important numbers of each of these species. By tracking how individuals are moving around the bay and between wetland sites, we can answer questions about movements of individuals during the winter as well as between seasons.  We can also use this data to address conservation issues such as the effects of disturbance, habitat change or severe weather conditions. 

So, with the help of a team of ornithologists from the Highlands and Grampian Ringing Groups in Scotland, and volunteers from within BirdWatch Ireland,  we kick-started the project in February, with a successful catch of 118 Oystercatchers at Merrion Gates in South Dublin Bay. Each bird was fitted with three colour-rings and one metal ring (see image). The plain green ring represents the overall project, the plain yellow ring represents the ringing site (in this case, South Dublin Bay) and the inscribed yellow ring identifies each individual.

How you can get involved...
Please keep your eyes peeled, and if you see any of these birds, please tell us! These birds are long lived, so hopefully we will be compiling these ring sightings for many years to come.

Click on the relevant links below to submit your sightings:





Keep updated on our Dublin Bay Birds Blog HERE!

  Newly ringed Oystercatcher, showing the inscribed ring on the right leg, together with the green ring to indicate that the bird was caught during this project. Photo by Richard Nairn.

Report a Dublin Bay Birds Project Colour-ringed Wader Here

 Dublin Bay Birds Project Synthesis: 2013-2016 




Bar-tailed Godwit - one of the wader species at the focus of this project

Common Tern - they nest on the platforms within Dublin Port. Thousands can be seen on Sandymount Strand in August and September as they gather post-breeding to 'build up their supplies' before heading on their long journey south to their wintering grounds in West Africa. Photo by Eddie Dunne

Oystercatcher. 119 birds have been caught and fitted with colour rings. Keep your eyes peeled! Photo by Ronnie Martin.



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