Northern Ireland

Whitethroat Sylvia communis ©Ian Dickey
Birding Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is currently part of the United Kingdom in the north-east of the island of Ireland, variously described as a country, province or region. Northern Ireland shares a border to the south and west with the Republic of Ireland. In 2011, its population was 1,810,863, constituting about 30% of the island’s total population and about 3% of the UK’s population.Northern Ireland consists of the six counties in the north east of the island of Ireland. These counties are no longer administrative units, but are still convenient recording areas (except in the case of Lough Neagh, where five of the county boundaries meet at various points in the largest inland body of water in the British Isles – it covers 153 square miles).Northern Ireland was covered by an ice sheet for most of the last ice age and on numerous previous occasions, the legacy of which can be seen in the extensive coverage of drumlins in Counties Fermanagh, Armagh, Antrim and particularly Down. The centrepiece of Northern Ireland’s geography is Lough Neagh, at 151 square miles (391 km2) the largest freshwater lake both on the island of Ireland and in the British Isles. A second extensive lake system is centred on Lower and Upper Lough Erne in Fermanagh. The largest island of Northern Ireland is Rathlin, off the north Antrim coast. Strangford Lough is the largest inlet in the British Isles, covering 58 square miles.For a small area it has diverse habitat. The coastline encompasses four major estuaries (Lough Foyle, Belfast Lough, Strangford Lough and Carlingford Lough). The Lower and Upper River Bann, River Foyle and River Blackwater form extensive fertile lowlands, with excellent arable land also found in North and East Down, although much of the hill country is marginal and suitable largely for animal husbandry. The Mourne Mountains in south county Down have the highest ground with Slieve Donard at 2,796 feet, and over a dozen peaks over 2,000 feet. A lot of county Antrim is an elevated basalt plateau between 1,000 and 1,200 feet. Fermanagh in the southwest is the Lakeland of Northern Ireland with Upper and Lower Lough Erne, and numerous small lakes dotted across the landscape. Tyrone and Londonderry have the rather bleak high ground of the Sperrin Mountains. Yet it is possible to drive nearly anywhere from the capital Belfast in several hours.

Top Sites
  • Further information

    See each county page for top birding locations
  • George Gordon


County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 343


  • iGoTerra Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • Birds in Ireland

    Clive D Hutchinson & John Busby | T & A D Poyser | 2010 | Hardback | 215 pages, b/w illustrations, b/w ddistribution maps, tables | ISBN: 9781408137017 Buy this book from
  • Collins Bird Guide

    (The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe) | by Killian Mullarney, Lars Svensson, Dan Zetterstrom & Peter Grant | Harper Collins | 2010 | Paperback | 392 pages, 3500 colour illustrations, 700 colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780007268146 Buy this book from
  • Collins Top Birding Spots in Britain and Ireland

    by David Tipling | Harper Collins | 1996 | Paperback | 320 pages | ISBN: 9780002200356 Buy this book from
  • Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland

    By Mark Golley & David Daly | Bloomsbury Publishing | 2016 | Paperback | 208 pages, colour illustrations | ISBN: 9781472917461 Buy this book from
  • Finding Birds in Ireland: The Complete Guide

    By Eric Dempsey & Michael O'Clery | Gill & Macmillan | 2014 | Paperback | 389 pages, 300 colour photos, colour maps | ISBN: 9780717159253 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Ireland: A Field Guide

    By Jim Wilson & Mark Carmody | The Collins Press | 2013 | Paperback | 272 pages, plates with colour photos | ISBN: 9781848891791 Buy this book from
  • The Complete Field Guide to Ireland's Birds

    By Eric Dempsey & Michael Cleary | Gill & Macmillan | 2010 | Paperback | 272 pages, 250 colour illustrations | ISBN: 9780717146680 Buy this book from
  • The Crossley ID Guide: Britain & Ireland

    by Richard Crossley & Dominic Couzens | Princeton University Press | 2013 | Paperback | 301 pages, 310 plates with colour photos, 250 colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780691151946 Buy this book from
  • Where to Watch Birds in Ireland

    by Paul Milne & Clive Hutchinson | Christopher Helm | 2009 | Paperback | 336 pages | ISBN: 9781408105214 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • Irish Tourist Board

    53 Castle Walk Street, Belfast - Phone (028)9032 7888
  • Northern Ireland Tourist Board

    Belfast Welcome Centre, 35 Donegall Place - Phone (028) 9024 6609 for the many regional tourist offices, details can be obtained here
  • Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens

    Northern Ireland BT9 5AB. Phone (028) 9038 3000. Fax (028) 9038 3003
  • NIRBC Northern Ireland Rare Birds Committee

    Northern Ireland Rare Birds Committee - Maintaining the NI Bird List
  • Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association

    Contact George Gordon, 2 Brooklyn Avenue, Bangor, Co Down, Northern Ireland BT20 5RB Phone (028) 9145 5763. E-mail - Runs Flightline Birdline updated daily (028) 9046 7408 to hear the latest news or to leave a message. Flightline is not a premium line (calls are only charged at local rates); and is a service provided by Northern Ireland Birdwatchers Association. It can also be sent via e-mail.
  • Northern Ireland Ornithologists Club

    The Northern Ireland Ornithologists' Club was formed in 1965. its purpose then, as now, was to focus the interests of active and enthusiastic birders. The club's activities are arranged by a committee, elected at the Annual General Meeting held each January. These activities are mainly fortnightly meetings, which take the form of illustrated talks by club members or guest speakers, held between October and April, and a series of Field Trips. The club tries to have at least two of the speakers from outside Northern Ireland. Each year the club also organises a major exhibition of colour transparencies taken by Northern Ireland bird photographers.
  • Royal Society for Protection of Birds

    Northern Ireland is home to all sorts of wonderful wildlife, from lolloping Irish hares to soaring red kites, not to mention stunning scenery as far as the eye can see. With RSPB NI reserves dotted across the country, it’s never been easier to get close to nature right on your doorstep.
  • Wildfowl and Wetland Trust

    Centre at Castle Espie in Strangford Lough. 78 Ballydrain Road, Comber, Co Down. Phone (028) 9187 4146 or (028) 9187 2517
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • nibirds

    News & Sightings
    Report sightings to: Email, Text: 07973 403 146 or 07870 863 782 or Twitter: @nibirds See localbird pics at:
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Birding Pal

    Local birders willing to show foreign visiting birders around their country - if you are prepared to return the favour to visitors to your country
Trip Reports

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 2008 [05 May] - Mark Hows

    Arriving in a dull and dreary Dublin at 6am, at least we avoided the rush hour and made good progress north, a quick food stop in Newry…
Other Links
  • Birdwatching in Northern Ireland

    EVERY VISITOR becomes a birdwatcher in Northern Ireland. The presence of a huge variety of bird species, in large numbers, in such a small area, soon becomes delightfully apparent. This is why ornithologists from all over the world are flocking here in greater numbers than ever
  • Wild Bird Food Shop Northern Ireland

    Welcome to the online Home of Wild Bird Food Shop Northern Ireland. We are part of Temple Garden and Farm Shop, at the Temple crossroads,Between Lisburn to Saintfield and Carryduff to Ballynahinch,just 10 mins from Belfast.
  • Margaret Adamson - Birding For Pleasure

    Birds, Nature, Photography in UK and other countries I have visited - I have taken up bird watching later in life however I became very enthusiastic from the beginning and was greatly encouraged by other bird watchers. For the past 5 years I have led a bird group in my town and have become a guest speaker on cruise ships talking about Birds around the world…
  • NI Birds

    A Blog on rare and scarce birds in Northern Ireland that is updated on a daily basis.

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