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Bord na Móna

First common crane chicks born in Ireland in 300 years feared to have died

It’s hoped that crane chicks will be successfully bred in future years.

COMMON CRANES THAT set up home on a rewetted peatland owned by Bord na Móna earlier this year successfully hatched two baby chicks in May, the semi-state company said – but the chicks haven’t been seen recently and are feared to have died.

This marks the first recorded birth of crane chicks in Ireland in over 300 years, and despite fears that the crane chicks have not survived, it’s hoped future breeding attempts will be successful.  

Common cranes usually take several years to successfully fledge chicks; two previous breeding attempts in 2019 and 2020 were ultimately unsuccessful, so there was much rejoicing when the chicks hatched.

A statement from Bord na Móna said today that one chick disappeared shortly after first being seen, which is not unusual in cranes.

The second chick has not been seen since late June, suggesting it may have gone missing. Bord na Móna ecologists believe there is still a chance that it may have survived and fledged, as they are “elusive by nature” – though it is thought more likely that a predator such as a fox may have carried off the young bird, or it died for some other reason.

Mark McCorry, lead ecologist at Bord na Móna said: “We are absolutely delighted that the cranes hatched two young this year. Unfortunately, on this occasion it looks like nature took its course and the young may not have survived.

“Still it shows that we are creating the right conditions in our rewetted peatlands for these magnificent creatures to thrive. This is the third year that the cranes have nested here and the first time they have produced chicks, so there is every chance they will return next year with hopefully a more successful outcome.”

McCorry says there may be more than one pair of cranes on the rewetted peatlands.   

“We’re getting reports of sightings in other areas which lead us to believe that there may be more than one pair of cranes on our peatlands. If that is the case, it is absolutely fantastic and shows what we can achieve when we enhance and protect our natural habitats and that Common Cranes have a real chance of re-establishing as an iconic wetland bird in Ireland”.

Though Cranes have been extinct in Ireland since the 1700s, there have been increased sightings of them in Irish skies in recent years during migration and over-wintering.

This may be due to ongoing conservation works in the UK that has seen numbers of the birds there rise from zero in the 1970s to over 200 today, as well as increases in its European population.

The crane is a bird with connections to Ireland’s culture and history. They have been central to folklore tales such as Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the druids, St Colmcille, and the Book of Kells. Their name as Gaeilge, ‘corr’, can be founded in hundreds of place names, such as the Curragh in Kildare which means ‘Crane meadow’.

They were even kept as pets, and records show they were the third most popular pet in medieval times. Unfortunately, they were also a popular food item for people at the time, and their ease of capture by foxes and the draining of wetlands resulted in their demise some time between 1600-1700.

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