What is the National Bird of Ireland?

Have you ever wondered what is the national bird of Ireland? Then you’ve come to the right place. Discover what is Ireland’s national bird, where it lives and more.

There are certain things that become national symbols for countries such as the national flag, national anthem and national emblems. But many countries also have a national bird and Ireland is no exception.

However, the choice of a national bird did not come until the end of the 20th century. And it should be noted that, unlike other countries, the national symbols of Ireland are not defined by an official act. Their recognition as national symbols is defined by their usage.

Discover the official bird of Ireland and more about it right here.

What is the national bird of Ireland?

In 1990, a committee of the Irish Wildlife Conservancy declared the Northern Lapwing as the national bird of Ireland.

A picture of a Northern Lapwing standing in grass at the edge of some water

The Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) is a shorebird belonging to the plover family. It stands approximately 11-13 inches (28-33) tall, has a distinctive crest of feathers and is also known as a peewit. It is the shortest-legged of the lapwing species.

Its name comes from the ‘lapping’ sound its rounded wings make during flight, whose wingspan is 26-34 inches (67-87cm). The slow-motion-like movement of their wings in flight gives an illusion of slow movement, almost like the lapping of waves. Hence the name.

It is mainly black and white in colouring, but its back is tinted green.

It feeds primarily on insects and other small invertebrates and often feeds in mixed flocks with other birds such as golden plovers and black-headed gulls, mostly at night by moonlight.

It is a migratory bird that spends the winter in Northern Africa. During breeding, the males are very vocal and females lay 3-4 eggs in a ground nest that is vocally and aggressively protected from potential threats such as cattle.

Note that the Lapwing is the Irish national bird. Northern Ireland does not have an official national bird, although the Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) was unofficially selected in 1961.

Where do Lapwings live?

Lapwings live throughout Ireland and the UK in both resident and migratory flocks.

The resident flocks are mostly found in the northern half of the island, while those in the south are mainly migratory flocks.

As mentioned, they are shore birds that wade along the shoreline or in mudflats found close to the shore.

A picture of a Lapwing, the national bird of Ireland, wading through blue water with reeds sticking out of the surface

Is the Lapwing endangered?

The Northern Lapwing is not an endangered species.

However, it is on the near-threatened list due to the loss of its habitation due to land loss and intensive agricultural techniques, particularly in the United Kingdom and Armenia.

With changes in agricultural techniques, moving from spring to autumn crops and increases in grazing of cattle, their habitats have declined. And remember, they are ground-nesting birds, so radical changes to the landscape adversely affect their ability to breed.

Why was the Lapwing chosen as Ireland’s National bird?

There are two reasons why the Lapwing was chosen as the official bird of Ireland.

Firstly, it is due to its colouring. With its tinted green back, white breast and orangish colour to its tail feathers, it is said to resemble the colours of the Irish flag, the Tricolour.

Secondly, it is thought that it was chosen due to its commonality.

A picture of a Northern Lapwing in flight against a green background on the lower half and blue sky upper half

Does the Lapwing feature on Irish money or the national flag of Ireland?

The Lapwing has never featured on Irish money, nor does it feature on the national flag of Ireland.

What other birds, animals and fish live in Ireland?

Ireland is an island that has an abundance of birds, animals and fish that make it and the seas around it their home, whether permanently or temporarily.

Wildlife can be found everywhere, from the shoreline to the forests to the bogs and the farm fields that are the backdrop of the landscape of the Emerald Isle.

Animals found in Ireland include foxes, deer, squirrels, hedgehogs, rabbits, hares, badgers and pine martins, among others.

Fish include salmon, trout, dolphins, basking sharks, and pike.

Some of the other birds found in Ireland include puffins, geese, swans, finch, crows, magpies, and swallows.

And yes, it is true, there are no snakes in Ireland.

What is the national animal of Ireland?

There is some debate as to which animal is Ireland’s national animal.

Historically, the Irish Elk, now extinct, is closely associated with Ireland and may have been considered its national animal. Following this, it has been said that the Red Deer was the next possible contender, but it too is extinct in Ireland.

However, nowadays, the Irish Mountain Hare is considered to be the national animal of Ireland. Unique to Ireland, these are the largest hare species and oldest surviving mammals in Ireland.

A picture of a female Irish Mountain hare standing on a grassy surface
Picture Source: AlanWolfe, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn more about Ireland’s national animal.

What is the national dog breed of Ireland?

Some people mistakenly think the Kerry blue is the national dog of Ireland, but it is the Irish Wolfhound.

A historically important breed of dog in Ireland, these gentle giants are a powerful symbol of Celtic Ireland. One of the largest breeds of dogs, they have average heights between 31 and 34 inches (79 and 86cm).

Despite their size, they are friendly, easy-going animals, loyal to their owners and quietly intelligent.

The Irish Wolfhound featured on the back of Irish coins pre-decimalisation, on the six pence piece.

A picture of a grey Irish Wolfhound dog

What is the national fish of Ireland?

Although you might think that the salmon would be the national fish of Ireland, it is actually the category of fish known as course fish which include pike (see below), bream, perch and carp.

The national fish of Northern Ireland is the Northern Pike, a carnivorous freshwater fish that grows between 16 and 22 inches in length (40–55cm).

Have any animals featured on Irish money or the national flag of Ireland?

Yes, there have been some animals featured on the Irish coins pre-Euro times. These include:

  • The Bull – 5 pence
  • The Salmon – 10 pence
  • The Horse – 20 pence
  • The woodcock – 50 pence
  • Irish red deer – 1 pound coin

No animal has or does feature on the national flag of Ireland.

So, there you have it, the Northern Lapwing is the national bird of Ireland and if you’ve read this far you’ve also learned what is the national fish, dog and animal of Ireland.

Read more:

A picture of a Northern Lapwing in flight and text overlay saying national bird of Ireland
by Cath Jordan
Cath is an Irish expat and the founder of Travel Around Ireland. She and her husband both come from Dublin, where the rest of their family remains. They regularly return to the Emerald Isle to explore the country with their son as well as to visit family. Through Travel Around Ireland, Cath shares her local expertise and knowledge with travellers and visitors to Ireland. Find out more about Cath here.

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