Why seeing red is good news for conservation; Derry is part of urban survey of squirrels

Two separate appeals have been made for the public to keep their eyes peeled for red kites and red squirrels.

By Staff Reporter
Thursday, 7th April 2022, 8:10 am

Both species are building towards recovery, the red kites having being previously extinct in NI and the red squirrels which have been displaced by those of the grey variety throughout most of Ireland. Research on squirrels is focusing on Ireland’s largest urban areas including Derry.

RSPB NI has asked the public to report sightings of red kites as the breeding season gets under way.

The organisation said that the birds of prey, which were previously extinct from Northern Ireland until they were reintroduced in 2008, were sighted over 400 times last year and it is believed there are around 29 territorial pairs.

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Red Squirrel by Karl O'Toole

Although Co Down, where they were reintroduced, remains a hot spot, red kites have been seen in all counties of Northern Ireland, most notably along the north coast and Fermanagh.

RSPB NI conservation manager Neal Warnock said: “Seeing a red kite soaring through the sky is a truly marvellous sight and one that is becoming ever more common every year due to conservation efforts.

“At this time of year, it is the perfect time to see them as they are nest building.

“We urge everyone, from farmers to outdoor enthusiasts to continue to keep an eye on our skies and get in touch with us if you see these magnificent birds by simply emailing [email protected] with the date, time and location of your sighting, and if possible, the colour and code on the wing tag.”

He added: “These sightings are incredibly valuable to our conservation work, they help us build a picture of how red kite populations are faring across Northern Ireland and we would like to thank everyone who continues to support us with sightings every year.”

Meanwhile, National University Ireland Galway researchers are asking for public support as the battle for the revival of the red squirrel moves to the streets, parks and gardens of cities across the island of Ireland.

The Urban Squirrel Survey, led by the university, is on a quest to find out more about the urban squirrel population, both the native red species and its rival, the invasive grey squirrel.

The research is focusing on the seven largest urban areas on the island of Ireland, which includes Belfast and Derry in the north as well as Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.

Researcher Emma Roberts said: “With the spread of urbanisation, parks and urban green spaces are becoming important habitats for squirrels. By understanding where both species occur in urban areas, we can plan conservation actions to protect our native red squirrel.”