It is feared that the first Common Crane chicks hatched in Ireland in over 300 years have not survived.
The two baby chicks were hatched in May on a rewetted Bord na Móna peatland, in the first recorded birth in Ireland for three centuries.
However, Bord na Móna said on Monday that one chick disappeared shortly after first being seen, and the second chick has not been seen since late June, suggesting it may have gone missing or been targeted by a predator.
“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,” said Mark McCorry, lead ecologist at Bord na Móna.
“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.”
Extinct in Ireland
Pairs of Common Cranes usually take several years to successfully fledge chicks, and two previous breeding attempts in 2019 and 2020 were ultimately unsuccessful.
Cranes have been extinct in Ireland since the 1700s, but there have been increased sightings of them in Irish skies in recent years during migration and over-wintering.
The pair that hatched the chicks set up home on the rewetted peatland earlier this year, and Mr McCorry said there may be more than one pair there.
Common Cranes have a real chance of re-establishing as an iconic wetland bird in Ireland
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Cranes were once kept as pets in Ireland, and records show they were the third most popular pet in medieval times. They were also a popular food item for people, and their ease of capture by foxes and the draining of wetlands resulted in their demise sometime between 1600 and 1700.