5 amazing places for birdwatching in Ireland

Whether you are a regular ‘birder’ or merely a keen walker looking to immerse yourself in nature, we recommend these five amazing places for birdwatching in Ireland.

Birdwatching in Ireland is a popular activity. Also known as ‘birding’, the hobby consists of the observation of such wildlife in their natural habitat or during migration season.

Birding is suitable for all – no matter your knowledge or experience. From pintails to plovers and blackcaps to black-backeds, the Emerald Isle is a great place to spot a range of rare and every-day species.

Check out our top picks of five amazing places for birdwatching in Ireland.

5. Rathlin Island, County Antrim – top RSPB Seabird Centre

5 amazing places for birdwatching in Ireland include Rathlin Island

Alongside being home to Northern Ireland’s only pair of breeding chough and corncrake, Rathlin Island hosts the country’s largest seabird colony. With its stunning surrounding panoramic coastal views, this RSPB Seabird Centre is the best place for rare sightings (such as lesser scaup and ring-necked duck)-with different species reported to appear at varying times throughout the year.

Upon its numerous cliffs, lakes, and areas of grassland, birdwatchers can observe puffins, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and kittiwakes during the summertime, as well as several predators including buzzards, ravens, peregrine falcons, and skuas.

Address: Rathlin Island – Ballycastle, Ballycastle BT54 6RT

4. Cape Clear Island, County Cork – for Siberian and American rarities

5 amazing places for birdwatching in Ireland include Cape Clear Island
Credit: Twitter / @CCBOIE

Founded in 1959, the bird observatory on Cape Clear Island not only offers birdwatchers a place to observe, but also education in the form of courses that are held throughout the year (covering everything from ecology to seawatching).

Great for spotting rarities, Cape Clear Bird Observatory is said to be the best place in Europe to see Cory’s shearwaters and sooty shearwaters (Southern hemisphere), and Wilson’s petrels (mid-Atlantic).

Across the island, there are a number of different spots with regular reported sightings to choose from, including Cotter’s Garden (chiffchaff, goldcrest, blackcap), Thrush Glen (warblers, thrushes, alders), Old Post Office (willow warblers, common whitethroats, redwings, fieldfares), Lough Errul (great black-backed, lesser black-backed) and Pointabullig (fulmars, robins, dunnocks, ravens) – plus many others.

Address: Cléire, Cork, Ireland

3. Castle Espie Wetland Centre, County Down – home to Ireland’s largest collection of native and exotic birds

5 amazing places for birdwatching in Ireland Castle Espie Wetland Centre
Credit: Tourism NI

Famous for its woodland walks, reed beds, salt marshes, and tidal lagoons, the Castle Espie Wetland Centre is located on the shores of Strangford Lough. An area of international importance, it has been known to attract a variety of wildfowl such as shovelers, godwits, redshanks, plovers, and shelducks.

With a birdwatching morning on the last Wednesday of every month at 10:30 am where visitors are joined by resident experts who share their knowledge of local wildlife, the Castle Espie Wetland Centre is one of our favourite places for birdwatching in Ireland.

Address: 78 Ballydrain Rd, Comber, Newtownards BT23 6EA

2. North Bull Island, Dublin – for birdwatching with world-class status

North Bull Island is located near Dublin
Credit: Twitter / @BiggerBetterMPA

North Bull Island, the first official bird sanctuary in the country (1930s) and an acknowledged UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (1981), is internationally recognised for its bird population with thousands arriving each year – no matter the season.

During the winter months, many birds arrive from Europe and North America (especially the Arctic region), and in the summer the sighting of many African birds have been reported. Other sightings include pintails, light-bellied brent geese, red-breasted mergansers, ringed plovers, snow buntings, sanderlings, short-eared owls, and more.  

Address: An Bulla Thuaidh, Dublin, Ireland

1. Lough Neagh Discovery and Conference Centre, County Armagh – designated National Nature Reserve

Lough Neagh Discovery Centre is a great spot for birders
Credit: Instagram / @randomly_pointless

A fully accessible centre with panoramic views of the lough, this recognised wetland of international importance (located on Oxford Island) is home to four miles of footpaths, various ponds, boglands, woodlands, wildflower meadows, picnic spots, play areas for kids, and five different birdwatching hides for observers.

One of its hides, Kinnego Hide, is a wood chalet kitted out with large observatory windows and various folding chairs where watchers have been known to spot the likes of the pochard from Estonia, tufted duck from Iceland and, during the winter months, whooper swans.

For its views, variety of observation spots, and wide array of different species, Lough Neagh Discovery Centre tops our list of amazing places for birdwatching in Ireland.

Address: Oxford Island National Nature Reserve, Craigavon BT66 6NJ

So whether you are looking to get up close and personal at an observatory or just curious as to where to go to see rare species during the winter months, there are a wide number of amazing places for birdwatching in Ireland to choose from.  

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Rebekah Humphries is a writer and blogger hailing from Carrickfergus, County Antrim. Having graduated from The Open University with a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, she hopes to utilise her passion for writing to help showcase the best that Ireland has to offer. In her free time, you are likely to find her drinking tea with a book in hand, spending time with her black lab, or cheering on her local ice-hockey team, the Belfast Giants.