This is a list of the birds that may be seen in County Mayo during the various months of the year. While not complete, it gives an idea of what can be looked for.
Please note that the months quoted are estimations – in any given year, migrant birds may arrive or depart a month earlier or later than indicated here.
Some birds are special to County Mayo, for example :
Chough can be seen in coastal areas pecking in the Machair and nesting in ruined castles. Look out for them on the Mullet Peninsula, around Clew Bay and on Achill Island.
Twite can usually be seen on the Mullet Peninsula near Termoncarragh or Erris Head.
Barnacle Geese fly daily from the Inishkea Islands to the Mullet Peninsula each winter.
Corncrake can usually be heard on the Mullet Peninsula, or near Roonagh Quay, west of Louisburgh.
Birds to Look Out For During the Year
Gulls: Black-headed, Common, Herring, Lesser Blacked-backed, Great Black-backed, with the more unusual gulls including Glaucous Gull and Iceland Gull.
Waders: Purple Sandpiper can be often found with Turnstone.
Unusual Ducks to look out for include: Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal, Smew, Goosander, Slavonian Grebe, aka Horned Grebe, (Broadhaven Bay).
Twite near Termoncarragh (Mullet Peninsula).
On the bird table, look out for over-wintering Blackcap. Siskins often become more frequent visitors in the New Year.
Flooded turloughs (e.g. East of Ballinrobe) may contain large numbers of swans, waders and ducks, including Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon.
Through January and early February, courting Ravens can be seen performing spectacular aerobatics and ‘dances’ in the uplands.
Winter birds remain around the County, e.g. ducks, geese, Whooper Swans.
Unusual winter gulls continue to be seen.
Rooks begin building nests in high trees.
Start of the arrival of Spring Migrants, look out for the first Wheatears, Blackcaps and Sand Martins.
Still to be seen: Gulls such as Iceland Gull; Whooper Swans as well as Barnacle, Greylag and Brent Geese.
Rodding of Woodcock at night time.
Rafts of Great Northern Diver, Slavonian Grebe may be seen at Blacksod Bay, on the Mullet.
More spring migrants arrive, e.g. Sandwich Tern, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Swallow, Grasshopper Warbler.
A few early Corncrake arrive late in the month.
Cuckoos usually arrive mid-month.
Late April arrivals usually include House Martin, Swift and Whitethroat.
Note the departure of Whooper Swans from lakes and Light-bellied Brent Geese from shores.
Rafts of divers offshore – Great Northern Diver, Red-throated Diver.
Unusual Waders: Long-billed Dowitcher.
The main arrival of the Corncrake occurs this month in areas of Mayo, especially on the Mullet and near Roonagh Quay, west of Louisburgh.
Other spring migrants arrive early this month, including Sedge Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher.
Twite at Erris Head, on the Mullet.
Whimbrel can be heard and seen on passage migration at most coastal sites as they head north, along with at the great lakes (Lough Mask, Conn, etc.).
The dawn chorus gets into full swing – take an early morning stroll in any of the woodlands, e.g. Brackloon near Westport, Tourmakeady, Drummin near Pontoon, Enniscoe House, Belleek in Ballina.
Corncrakes can be heard calling at night in their various breeding sites in the county.
Snipe can also be heard drumming.
Woodlands provide good bird song, including the various summer-visiting warblers.
Ringed-billed Gull may be seen on the lakes, e.g. Lough Mask.
Corncrake may still be heard early this month.
Unusual gulls could include sightings of Ring-billed and Mediterranean Gulls.
Barn Owls hunting at night.
Large numbers of Storm and Leach’s Petrel offshore.
Terns can be seen fishing in lakes and along the shore.
Ospreys may occasionally be seen fishing in large lakes, e.g. Lough Conn and Cullin.
Pomarine Skuas can be seen off the headlands.
Start of the passage of migrants. Visit one of the headlands to see this incredible sight as hundreds (or thousands) of birds pass by the coast of Co Mayo.
Petrels (Storm, Leach’s, Wilson’s, Fea’s-Type), Max, Cory’s and Great Shearwaters, Sabine Gull, Pomarine Skua.
Later in the month – American waders may be seen: Sandpipers (Pectoral, Semipalmated, Buff-Breasted). American Golden Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher.
The continuation of the autumn Passage of Migration – best viewed form Kilcummin Head, Downpatrick Head, Erris Head and Annagh Head.
Look out for Shearwaters (Manx, Sooty, Great, Cory’s, Balaeric, Little), Leach’s Petrels, Skuas (Long-tailed and Arctic), Grey Phalarope, Sabine’s Gulls.
In Late September: Grey Phalarope.
Unusual sandpipers: Baird’s Semipalmated, White-rumped, Pectoral.
Waders: Long-Billed Dowitcher, Lesser Yellowlegs, Little Stint, Curlew, Sandpiper.
Snowy Owl was seen in the autumn near Blacksod on the Mullet Peninsula for several years around 2006 – 2012.
Marsh Harriers, Osprey may be spotted.
The arrival of wintering birds, such as ducks and geese, begins late in the month, unusual geese include Cackling / Canada and Snow Bunting.
Passage migration continues early in the month – look for Leach’s Petrel and Grey Phalarope.
Build-up of Whooper Swans continues, along with increasing numbers of ducks and geese.
Siskins, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Coal, Blue and Great Tits, etc, begin to visit the garden bird feeders.
American Waders may be seen. Look for Pectoral, Baird’s, Buff-breasted Sandpipers.
Other unusual waders include: Little Stint, American Golden Plover, Ruff may also be seen on the coast along with American Wigeon.
Scarce birds that have be seen on the Mullet Peninsula this month include Yellow-browed Warbler, Arctic Redpoll, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Firecrest, Lapland Bunting, Snow Bunting and Red-eyed Vireo.
There is usually a build-up of Common Scoter in Broadhaven Bay.
Gulls include Glaucous and Iceland.
Winter Thrushes (Redwing and Fieldfare) can be heard overhead as they arrive.
Most of the Swallows will have now departed.
Keep an eye on the turloughs throughout the county as they can produce surprising numbers of swans, ducks and waders.
Look out for Whooper Swan, Golden Plover, Greylag Geese, American Plover among the flocks of wintering wildfowl and waders.
Waxwing flocks may occasionally visit gardens where they eat the berries of the cotoneaster.
Gull numbers increase around the coast, including the white winged Glaucous and Iceland Gulls.
Ring-necked Duck in lakes such as Carrowmore and Lough Doogan can be seen.
Build-up of the wintering thrushes, Redwing and Fieldfare and they move in groups searching for food.
In your garden, you might be lucky enough to see beautiful Bullfinch pairs over the iwinter months, feeding on your dock seeds.
Brambling may be mixed in with flocks of Chaffinches.
Unusual ducks such as Ring-necked, can be seen on various lakes, such as Carrowmore Lake near Bangor, and Lough Doogan near Newport, along with other dabbling and diving ducks.
Slavonian Grebe in Blacksod Bay on the Mullet Peninsula.
Lapland Bunting skulking near the coast.
Iceland Gull, the smaller of the white winged gulls, can turn up anywhere.
Red-breasted Merganser, a diving sea duck, can be seen just offshore.