Kerry has a huge variety of bird habitats, from high rocky crags to coastal mudflats, from ancient oak woodlands to summer meadows. Its position on the southwest of Ireland makes it the landfall for a host of migratory species, as well as the best location in Europe to find American waders, blown off course by Atlantic storms.
Some of the highlights include:
This is a large estuary which can hold good numbers of wildfowl during the winter including Wigeon and Teal. Areas of woodland in the region hold many breeding species such as Treecreeper, Long Tailed Tit and Jay.
A large bay encompassing Waterville and Ballinskelligs village.
The area is renowned amongst birdwatchers in winter for sea duck, especially Common Scoter and Great Northern Diver. The rare Surf Scoter has been recorded here several times. Valentia Island may have Corncrake breeding in the summer while Bolus Head (14km west of Waterville) may attract migrants such as Subalpine Warbler in spring.
A summer ferry service operates from Portmagee to the isolated Skellig Islands.
A variety of seabirds can be found here including Kittiwake, Puffin and Razorbill but
the huge colony of Gannets on Little Skellig is awe inspiring. Nearby Puffin Island also has similar species breeding but access is not permitted without permission from Bird Watch Ireland.
Faill na nÉan
A huge colony of nesting seabirds on the cliffs on the north side of Doulus Head. The best months are May, June, and July.
Killarney National Park
A variety of habitats on offer from high mountain peaks, mixed woodland and tranquil lakes can be found in the area south of Killarney. The rare breeding Ring Ouzel frequents the highest slopes while Dipper and Kingfisher can be found along the many streams and rivers. Several species can be found within the broad forest tracts including Willow Warbler, Cuckoo, Spotted Flycatcher and Long Eared Owl, while Pochard, Tufted Duck and Wigeon can be found on the lakes.
In winter large numbers of Brent Geese and Wigeon visit the area near Inch along with other wildfowl species. At Cromane a Spoonbill has been present for several
years while scarce gulls including Iceland and Glaucous can also be seen. Rossbeigh attracts large rafts of Common Scoter during October-March and careful observation may lead to a rare bird being found: a White Winged Scoter was present here from Feb-March 2011.
The area around the pier and marina typically attracts a variety of gull species including American Herring Gull, Ring Billed Gull, Iceland Gull and Kumliens Gull. Other areas nearby such as Trabeg, Burnham, Smerwick and Ventry can be very good for a variety of wildfowl and wading birds: Little Egret, Grey Heron, Curlew, Redshank, and rare American sandpipers including Semi Palmated Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs have all been observed.
Dunquin and Dingle both operate ferries to the Blaskets with a variety of seabirds on offer. Manx Shearwater, Fulmar and Lesser Black Gulls may be seen on the trip through Blasket Sound. Rock Dove and Chough may also be in the area. Around the Dunquin and Coumeenoule areas the hedgerows and trees have often been searched during the spring and autumn with rare birds often discovered including birds from Asia: Golden Oriole, Bonelli’s Warbler, Yellow Browed Warbler and Wryneck; and from America: Rose Breasted Grosbeak, Red Eyed Vireo and Cliff Swallow have often thrilled observers.
A great place for watching seabirds, especially in the autumn with a strong North Westerly wind. The headland is approximately 7km from Cloghane after leaving Castlegregory, and the road ends rather abruptly in a carpark. Manx and Sooty Shearwaters are regularly seen along with Great Skua and Grey Phalarope, but the site has often played host to very rare birds including Long Tailed Skua, Sabines Gull, Great Shearwater and Little Shearwater. Antarctic visitors such as Wilson’s Petrel and Black Browed Albatross have also been recorded. Lapland and Snow Buntings are sometimes observed in the short grass around the car park.
The large coastal bay stretching from Castlegregory to Cloghane attracts breeding
Terns to the Maharee Islands in the summer and large rafts of Common Scoter in the winter. Diving duck such as Tufted Duck and Scaup, and Whooper Swan may be found on Lough Gill while Slavonian Grebes can be found in the spring offshore at Sandy Bay. Other coastal birds will also be encountered here such as Barnacle Geese, Red Throated Diver, Purple Sandpiper, Herring Gull and Cormorant.
Just 1 km from Tralee is the Blennerville Windmill and the surrounding inner estuary can be very productive for wildfowl, waders and gulls. Most of the scarce birds are usually found from August-March but the location and observer coverage means that almost anything can be discovered here, especially rare American waders. The surrounding areas of Derrymore, Barrow, The Spa and Fenit are also worth visiting and can prove very productive for wildfowl especially Brent Goose and Wigeon.
The Black Rock on Ballyheigue Strand
The area can be found between Artfert and Ballyheigue and also incorporates Carrahane Strand and Akearagh Lough. It is an outstanding area during September and October for rare American waders, the list of which is exhaustive and includes: Least Sandpiper, Buff Breasted Sandpiper, Long Billed Dowitcher, Baird’s Sandpiper and Wilsons Phalarope. Commoner European species include Ruff, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper. This area attracts birdwatchers from all over Ireland, the UK and further afield.
Approx 10km North West from Ballyheigue is another headland for watching seabirds, chiefly in the Autumn but also in the Spring. The same species and weather as mentioned previously for Brandon Point holds true for Kerry Head but in smaller numbers. Nevertheless rare Shearwaters and Skuas have also been recorded here.
The Cashen Estuary
The estuary and surrounding area near Ballybunion hold large concentrations of Lapwing and Golden Plover in winter while large flocks of Whooper Swan are regular from November to February. Nearby Carraigafoyle Castle can produce wintering Black Redstart and Ballylongford estuary has good numbers of waders including Greenshank, Dunlin and Curlew while a rare Citrine Wagtail has also been recorded.
The mudflats from Tarbert stretching to Carrig Island and Ballylongford Bay are easily scanned from the main road along to the ferry port. Wigeon, Teal and Red Breasted Merganser are often present in good numbers, while Golden and Grey Plovers are also seen. The surrounding woodland may have Long Eared Owl, Great Tit and Bullfinch.