- Average lifespan is 4-6 years in the wild.
- Males are known as dogs; female are vixens and babies are cubs.
- They are highly vocal using a range of sounds to communicate, these vary from high pitched murmuring whines emitted by cubs to the distinctive triple bark used by adults, the vixen often uses a high-pitched scream during the breeding season.
- They are able swimmers and can even climb trees.
- Foxes are highly adaptive mammals that can inhabit any type of land area.
- Foxes use two types of nest sites. Underground dens known as earths and over ground lie-up areas found in thick vegetation with numerous of both across the territory.
- Territory size vary depending on the area type and availability of food. Mountains/ upland territories are up to 1,000ha. Urban territories are from 20ha to 40ha. Farmland/ countryside territories are from 200ha to 600ha.
- Foxes are very opportunistic eaters. Species which they have a preference for include rabbits, young hares, rats, mice, hedgehogs, pigeons and ground nesting birds. They will forage for earthworms, beetles, crickets and insect larvae. Apples and blackberries are also eaten on occasion. They store food in cache sites to be eaten at a later date.
- Foxes are largely monogamous and can live in small groups comprising of one adult male, one dominant vixen and several younger nonbreeding females.
- Cubs are usually born in March and April with litter sizes averaging four or five cubs. They are deaf and blind when born.
- The mother will remain with the cubs in the earth for several weeks to provide body heat and gives milk for six weeks. The male will bring food to the den, which is regurgitated, they can eat solid food by the age of one month.
- Lifespan is from 2-6 years.
- The scientific name is Crex crex which is derived from the loud male call of “krek krek”. They are known to sing at night-time during spring and summer.
- The kerrx-kerrx sound of the corncrake has been compared with two cheese-graters rubbed together (let your Little Explorer have a listen on YouTube)
- These birds are extremely endangered however a glimmer of hope in preventing their extinction is evident. The State’s bid to save the corncrake from national extinction received a boost last year with the number of calling males increasing by 8 per cent to 151.
- They are a medium-sized crake with buff- or grey-streaked brownish-black upperparts, chestnut markings on the wings, and blue-grey underparts with rust-coloured and white bars on the flanks and undertail.
- Downy chicks are black.
- This secretive species builds a nest of grass leaves in a hollow in the ground and lays 6–14 cream-coloured eggs which are covered with rufous blotches.
- They are a migratory bird and fly back to Africa every winter.
- The corn crake is omnivorous but mainly feeds on invertebrates, the occasional small frog or mammal, and plant material including grass seed and cereal grain.
Dragonfly/Damsel FlyRead More
- Dragonfly nymphs live in the water while they grow and develop into dragonflies taking up to four years to complete always around springtime. The lifespan of the actual dragonfly is about 2-6 months
- Damselflies are small typically to 3cm long, bodies 2-4mm in diameter, wings held closed over back when perching.
- Dragonflies are larger, bodies long and slim or broad and short, wings held open when perching.
- Once the nymph is fully grown, and the weather is right, it will complete the metamorphosis into a dragonfly by crawling out of the water up the stem of a plant.
- The nymph will shed its skin onto the stem of the plant and will then be a young dragonfly.
- Dragonflies and damselflies belong to an order of insects known by the scientific name of Odonata.
- The adults (and larvae) are active hunters. Many are strongly territorial; some are migratory and many will actually respond to your presence.
- There are 32 species on the Irish dragonfly list. Even in the heart of large towns and cities, dragonflies can be seen, and by building garden ponds can be enticed close to our homes.
- Dragonflies can be seen and appreciated by sitting quietly beside water in sunny weather. It can be worth slowly approaching perched insects for a closer look which is much easier (but less pleasant!) when the weather is dull.
- Cooler temperatures on dull cloudy days or in the evening make dragonflies less active and reluctant or unable to fly. The damselflies in particular have the habit of dropping deep into vegetation if disturbed when the air temperature is low. They can then be surprisingly difficult to find.
- My Nanna told me, when I was a little girl, that the fairies sew the young dragonfly’s wings because of the shimmer and delicate patterns. Have a look for yourself and decide.
- Check out DragonflyIreland on Facebook for more.
- The oldest recorded bird was 23, but the average life expectancy in the wild is about 5 years.
- With its long neck and long legs, it is impossible to confuse with another Irish bird although some still call them cranes.
- The Crane became extinct in Ireland only in late medieval times, sometime between 1540 and 1600.
- They are most often observed alone by the banks of rivers, canals, lakes, the coast and wetlands however where feeding is good, they may congregate in relatively large numbers.
- Their diet consists fish, frogs and other amphibians, ducklings, other birds, and small rodents such as mice. They’ve been known to enjoy the odd goldfish or two from garden ponds! They are clever and sometimes toss seeds or fruit in the water to attract fish.
- Herons are a wading bird generally avoiding swimming whenever possible.
- A grey heron's nest is made from large twigs and grass & forms a large platform in tall trees built in colonies called a heronry. Both parents incubate the eggs which are pale greenish-blue; both also feed the chicks.
- Herons that breed in Ireland are sedentary however birds from Britain and as far away as Scandinavia join the Irish population for the winter.
- In Irish mythology both crane and heron are placed as guardians of the treasures of the Otherworld. A beauty named Aoife was turned into a crane by a jealous lover and forced to be a slave to Manannan Mac Lir, the sea god, for 200 years, "always in his house with everyone mocking thee, a crane that does not visit any land." When poor Aoife died, Manannan, rather gruesomely, from her skin had made "a good treasure of vessels" such as his shirt, knife &helmet. This crane-bag would reveal its contents only at full-tide, otherwise nothing was visible. The bag was passed on to various gods.
- Celts believed heron was an incarnation of the goddess called Rhiannon, which was a Celtic deity associated with lakes & waters.
- Average lifespan is 5 years in the wild.
- Babies are cubs and there is usually 2-3 in the litter.
- The otter is a member of the Mustelid family which includes stoats, minks and pine martens in Ireland.
- Always found by water, otters live by small streams to major rivers, upland lakes to coastal lagoons and sandy beaches.
- Within its territory (which can be between 2 - 20km) they have a number of resting sites, called couches and underground denning sites called holts, which can be up to 1km from the water source.
- The holts are natural crevices with multiple entrances. Otters rarely dig their own holts they will use burrows made by other animals such as rabbits and foxes.
- The entire population is estimated to be in the region of 10,000 adults.
- Otters that live in rivers and lakes tend to be completely nocturnal, foraging at night or in ‘muddy’ water aided by their highly sensitive whiskers.
- Otters are principally piscivorous eating salmon and trout but also eel and small fish species such as stickleback. However they will also eat frogs, crayfish, birds and small mammals. Otters that forage at the coast may have flexible foraging times linked to the tides. At low tide otters hunt in the exposed rock pools and seaweed covered rocks for fish and invertebrate prey.
- Otters are agile swimmers with the ability to dive underwater for up to forty seconds. They slink through the water only the head and part of the tail is visible. Sea otters hold hands when they are sleeping to stop them drifting apart.
- Otters are not particularly vocal but will emit a whistle sound to communicate with more chuckles and chatters being heard during the mating season
Red SquirrelRead More
- Babies are called kittens in litter sizes of 2-3 twice a year. They are born blind and furless not becoming independent until approx. 3 months.
- On average they live up to 3 years in the wild but females can reach up to 6 years of age.
- They are not a very vocal species but will make chattering calls and stamp their tails making a chucking sound on wood and ground surfaces.
- Their long bushy tail is equal to the length of the head and body combined and is used as a balance aid while climbing making them the most agile mammal in Ireland.
- Red squirrels will build nests called dreys of dried grasses and moss for lining and an outer layer of twigs attached to the main trunk of trees. They may use several different nests within tree branches or use the hollows of older tree trunks and larger branches.
- Red squirrels eat pine and spruce seeds, acorns, berries, fungi, tree sap and bark. They forage all night in summer and early morning in late autumn and in winter.
- Red squirrels famously bury collected nuts and seeds in hoards which are shallow pits dug in soft ground. They do not hibernate but can remain in their nests for several days if the weather is bad, making only quick trips to a nearby hoards which are important to the ecosystem of forests as this activity spreads tree seeds over large areas at the vital time of Autumn
- They spend most of their active periods in the tree canopy while the grey squirrel, whose twice its size, stay foraging at ground level for much of the time.
- Unfortunately, the red squirrel will usually disappear from an area with grey as they spend longer on the ground foraging. The red’s hoards can be found, and their winter food source removed resulting in starvation.
- However, the increasing number of pine martens are helping the red since the greys are easier for them to catch on the ground.
- Red squirrels use their tails as umbrellas when it’s raining
The badger The Irish name is Broc
- Young badgers are called cubs.
- Badgersin the wild rarely exceed six years in age but maximum life expectancy up to 14 years.
- They have a stocky powerful body with relatively short legs and a short tail. The distinctive head is white with two black stripes through the eyes from the muzzle to the ears. Body appears grey overall but it’s actually black and white hairs.
- Litter size usually 2-3 cubs, born late January through to early March.
- Their diet consists of crane fly larvae, moth larvae, wasps, bees, frogs and earthworms, but they will take all manner of invertebrates, small vertebrates, and a variety of plant food.
- Badgers have a wide variety of habitat types, but generally associated with pasture, woodland, scrub or hedgerow. They do occur in urban areas also, where foraging is available and disturbance is minimal.
- A badger lives in a sett. Some can possess 300m of tunnel and 20 or more chambers. Badgers in the wild rarely exceed six years in age but maximum life expectancy up to 14 years.
- Badgers are protected under the Wildlife Acts (Wildlife Act, 1976; Wildlife Amendment Act, 2000), and in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife (N.I.) Order of 1985. Also protected under Appendix III of the Berne Convention.
- Average life expectancy 10 - 15 years.
- The Common Frog (Rana temporaria) is the only species of frog found in Ireland.
- There are three species of amphibian found in Ireland – the Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita), the Smooth Newt (Triturus vulgaris) and the Common Frog (Rana temporaria). The Natterjack toad is extremely rare and is confined to a few areas in Counties Kerry and Wexford.
- Frogs are amphibians which means they can survive in the water and on land.
- When frogs leap they draw eyes their back into their sockets to protect them from damage.
- A frog’s skin is loose on its body and moist. Under the water they breathe through their skin.
- The colourful patterns on the frog’s skin help to disguise it from enemies such as rats, herons and hedgehogs. A frog can also make its skin become darker to match its surroundings. This colour change takes about two hours.
- Frogs have four fingers and five toes. The webbed feet are like flippers and help the frog to swim away from danger very fast. The frog’s hind legs are very muscular which helps it to swim in the water and leap on land
- Frogs feed on slugs, insects, worms, spiders and similar prey.
- In winter frogs hide in frost-free refuges, under tree stumps, in stacks of turf, or in rock piles where they enter torpor until the following spring.
- They breed around February and spawn around March, Tadpoles hatch and grow from April to May, Tadpoles metamorphose into froglets, and leave the pond in June/July.
- Human hands have natural salts and oils that can irritate a frog's skin, so handling the animals with dry hands can cause severe problems for them, even death; so, wash and keep them moist if you must touch them.
- See IPCC.ie for more froggy facts!
- Females are does, males are bucks and babies are called pinkies because of their bright pink color.
- The average lifespan of an Irish field mouse is thought to be only 20 months long.
- There are two species of mice in Ireland, the common house mouse and the wood mouse or field mouse.
- They are one of the smallest mammals on our island and absolutely adorable in my eyes!
- Field mice have larger eyes, ears and a much longer tail, their hind legs are also much larger in proportion to their body size measuring up to 3cm in length in comparison to the house mouse.
- They have four toes on their front feet and five on their back feet.
- They have excellent vision and smell.
- Movement can be described as fast and alert with an ability to leap, swim and climb when necessary.
- As the name suggests they can be found in an Irish woodland type such as coniferous, deciduous and mixed forests, hedgerows, agricultural land, sand dunes, bramble and bracken scrub, gardens, blanket bog and open grasslands. The only habitat areas which are unsuitable for wood mice are waterlogged lands.
- Underground burrows are dug in soft ground and can contain a number of tunnels and chambers, some chambers act as food stores with a nest room located deeper in the earth where it is warmer.
- Their diets are composed of seeds such as acorns, beech mast and conifer seeds, fruits, berries, buds, fungi, nuts, roots, cereals and bulbs. They will also hunt earthworms, snails, centipedes and insects.
- They use pathways to travel to foraging areas and to return with surplus food for storage underground.
- Young hedgehogs are called ‘pups’ or ‘hoglets’
- The average lifespan is 3 years but they can live up to 10 years.
- Hedgehogs have poor eyesight but a great sense of smell - so good that they can even smell the scent of an earthworm underground.
- Hedgehogs can swim but can become trapped in pools and ponds with steep sides.
- As many as 500 fleas live amongst a hedgehogs’ spines! Hedgehogs can wander for up to 3 km a night in search of food.
- The Latin for ‘hedgehog’ is Erinaceus which means ‘spiky wall’ .
- The Irish word for hedgehog is ‘gráinneog’ - meaning ‘horrible one’!
- Hedgehogs occasionally perform an unusual ritual of ‘self-anointing’. This occurs when they come across a strong or an unfamiliar scent. The hedgehog will lick and bite the source and then form scented frothy saliva which it pastes over its spines with its tongue. Some believe that this ‘anointing’ camouflages the hedgehog with the scent of the area and possibly provides a poison or a source of infection to predators that come into contact with its spines.
- Apart from the nine species of bat, the hedgehog is the only Irish mammal that undergoes true hibernation usually from October to March.
- On average, in the wild, a Kestrel will live for 18 months but the oldest Kestrel on record was 16yrs 5months old.
- The kestrel is a species of falcon and are a small bird of prey with long, relatively narrow wings and tail.
- They have a short, hooked bill for eating meat. When hunting for its prey it usually hovers with a fanned tail managing to keep its head stationary despite its rapid wing beats.
- Kestrels nest in trees, buildings or in cracks in cliffs and have been known to use old crows nests.
- Kestrels can be found in a wide variety of open habitats including coasts, moor land, farmland, wetlands, roadside verges and town parks.
- According to Niall Mac Coitir in his book “Ireland’s Birds: Myths, Legends and Folklore” (The Collins Press 2015); in times long gone by, kestrels were the lowliest of falcons, used only by naves or servants. Nevertheless, they had a use, as they were traditionally kept near dovecotes to scare sparrowhawks away, because they would not bother the doves themselves. It was even said that pigeons would seek out a kestrel for protection if a sparrowhawk was about.
- Young hares are called leverets.
- The life span is a maximum of 9 years.
- They are one of Ireland’s longest established indigenous animals and are much larger than rabbits with a more upright stance.
- Their eyes are large and set in the sides of the head allowing for a wide field of vision which is close to 360 degrees.
- When running they have a top speed of 70kmp or 43mph and can change direction sharply to outwit predators.
- They have five toes on their front feet and four on their hind.
- They do not burrow underground but occupy ground surface dens called forms in sheltered areas of flattened vegetation under heather and long grass.
- They are native to Ireland and they have been present in Ireland as far back as 28,000BC
- The hares are steeped in Irish legend/ folklore and Irish mythology as shapeshifters.
- There is a legend that the Celtic warrior Oisin hunted a hare, wounding it in the leg. Oisin followed the wounded animal into a thicket where he found a door leading down into the ground. He went in and came to a large hall where he found a beautiful young woman sitting on a throne bleeding from a leg wound. He vowed to never hunt or eat a hare from that day.
- A male deer is called stag or buck, a female deer is called doe or hind, and a young deer is called fawn, kid or calf.
- The average life expentancy in the wild is 15 years and the maximum is over 20 years.
- The red deer is Ireland's largest land mammal and is the only species of deer that is considered native to Ireland.
- They earned their 'native' or indigenous status, as they are believed to have survived our last ice age or are the closest living population to the post-glacial native Irish Red deer.
- The antlers which are only grown by the males are the most characteristic feature of the species.
- They are shed and re-grown each year and have a distinctive branching design which form a curved heart shaped appearance when viewed from the front.
- Mature stags can develop up to twelve points known as tines on the antlers which are used as a reflection of their social standing.
- When the antlers are being grown they will be covered in a skin like velvet which is frayed off on tree trunks in time for the rutting season.
- They are mainly grass grazers in open habitats who will also eat herbs, tree shoots, acorns and fruits. They will strip bark from the trunks of spruce and sallow tree types to gain access to the inner more nutritious material and will also browse the lower leaves of heather, oak and holly up to two meters from the ground.
- Killarney National Park has the last intact herd of native Irish Red Deer as other herds have breed with different species.
- Although the average lifespan of magpies is five years, the longest lived specimen was 21 years, 8 months, and 23 days old when it died in 1947.
- With distinctive black & white plumage and raucous nature magpies cannot be confused with any other Irish bird.
- The magpie is Ireland's best-known member of the crow family.
- Although the plumage looks black and white in actual fact the black feathers are purple-blue iridescent sheen on the wing feathers, and there is a green gloss to the tail. Magpies use their long black legs to walk and quite often to hop along the ground.
- It is believed that magpies were first recorded in Wexford in 1676 when up to a dozen flew across the Irish sea from Britain. Breeding in Dublin was first noted in 1852.
- Although the average lifespan of magpies is five years, the longest-lived specimen was 21 years, 8 months, and 23 days old when it died in 1947.
- We all know the rhyme "One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told."
- The lifespan of a crow is 7-8 years
- Crows have shiny jet black plumage with curious eyes, hoping gait, & a remarkable level of intelligence.
- With more than 120 species, crows thrive in almost all the continents, other than Antartica.
- Crows belong to the genus Corvus in the family Corvidae.
- “Cawing” is the sound they make & they have a sophisticated form of communication language.
- They usually lay 4-7 eggs at a time.
- They have a single mate their entire life.
- Crows have the biggest brain to body ratio among all bird species. Evolved with a highly developed forebrain, where intelligence is regulated, the anatomy of the crow brain is much similar to humans’.
- Just like parrots, crows can imitate human voice but they are more intelligent than parrots and are known to use tools &methods for getting food such as leaving a nutshell on a road so a car will drive over it to crack it for them!
- Crows, particularly ravens, have strong connections with European folklore and mythology – particularly in Celtic and Norse mythology. Ravens were the messengers of the Irish and Welsh gods and were associated with battle and prophecy.
- Aesop’s famous fable “The crow and the pitcher” demonstrates the crows intelligence.
- The story concerns a thirsty crow that comes upon a pitcher with water at the bottom, beyond the reach of its beak. After failing to push it over, the bird drops in pebbles one by one until the water rises to the top of the pitcher, allowing it to drink.
- So next time you hear a “caw” say hello to this remarkable bird... It might just say hello back!
- The average lifespan of these birds is 2 to 3 years. The oldest recorded Wren was 6 years and 8 months old.
- The wren is one of Ireland's smallest birds. Wrens are readily recognised by their rich brown plumage and short cocked tail which they flick repeatedly.
- They usually only fly short distances in a steady straight line with rapid wing beats.
- A wren's diet is largely based upon insects and spiders. They are particularly partial to beetles hence the reason that they usually feed close to the ground.
- Wrens there relatively long bill to probe into nooks and crannies on the ground. This may explain their Latin name Troglodytes which means cave dweller.
- A wren's nest is made from grass, moss and leaves. The male builds the main globe-shaped nest in a tree, ivy, bush, wall, bank, or an open-fronted nest boxes. He will build a number of nests from which the female chooses one. When she makes her choice she completes the nest construction by feathering the inside.
- Traditionally in Ireland the 26th December is known as Lá an Dreoilín or Wren’s Day. The tradition is of Celtic origin and people hunt a fake wren, placing it on top of a decorated pole. Then the ”wrenboys” celebrate the wren by dressing up in masks, straw suits and colourful clothing and parading through towns and villages.
- Although small, they are known as the king of the birds. One day, all the birds came together to see which of them would be king. To do this, they began to fly upwards to see which of them would fly the highest. While the birds were soaring upwards, the wren sat under the eagle's wing. When the eagle stopped soaring, the wren came out from under his wing and flew higher. The wren became king that day.
Pine MartinRead More
- Young pine martens are called kits.
- Life expectancy can be up to ten years, although the majority of individuals are unlikely to survive past five years in the wild.
- This animal is the rarest of all mammals in Ireland with an estimated 2,700 in the wild.
- They are cat sized with brown fur and yellow throat patch with long bushy tail
- Around 2-3 kits are born during March and April.
- Their diet consists of berries, fruits, small mammals, invertebrates, birds and amphibians.
- Native red squirrel numbers are on the rise as its grey rival declines in areas where the protected pine marten has started to recover as they prey on the bigger grey squirrel that is not as quick and agile as the red.
- Pine Martens require forest or scrub habitat that provides cover.
- The Pine Marten is a protected species and were protected under law in 1976. This has helped numbers increase across Ireland.
- The pine marten is related to the Irish stoat, otter and badger (the Mustelid family).
- For more information see www.pinemarten.ie