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Flora & Fauna - 6.3 Grey Seal

• Name: Grey Seal
• Irish name: An Rón Glas
• Latin Name: Halichoerus grypus
• Order: Carnivora
• Family:Phocidae
• Status:Not a species of concern
• Length: 70 to 102 cm (28–40 in)
• Wingspan: 121 to 160 cm (48–63 in)
• Weight: 2.6 to 3.7 kg (5.7-8.2 lbs)

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Overview The oystercatcher is a large, stocky, black and white wading bird. It has a long, orange-red bill and reddish-pink legs. In flight, it shows a wide white wing-stripe, a black tail, and a white rump that extends as a 'V' between the wings.
Where to see them:Possible to see on almost all coasts of the Ireland and UK.
Habitat: Sandy, muddy, rocky beaches.
Diet: Predominantly bivalves esp cockles, mussels, tellins Macoma, earthworms when young
Additional: Individuals specialise by either hammering their bivalve prey through the shell (these birds have short, blunt bills), or prising the two shells apart (these have longer pointed bills).
When to see them:All year round.
What they eat:Mussels and cockles on the coast; mainly worms inland.
European Population Size (summer): 293 to 425 thousand pairs.
Identification The bold black and white plumage of an Oystercatcher is distinctive enough even without the long bright red bill which confirms its identity. In winter plumage they have an extra white mark on the throat.
Habitat Breeds on grass fields and shingle beside lakes, rivers and seashores. Winters on estuaries, sandy beaches and open fields.
Behaviour One characteristic display is their so-called 'piping display' Both members of a pair bow forwards with their bill pointing down to the ground and they utter prolonged chattering piping noises. This seems to have some function in defending the territory since, if another pair joins, in they will usually be driven away by short chases in which the birds continue piping.
Migration Birds which breed on the coast are mostly sedentary, but those which breed inland or along the coasts of Scandinavia, move south and west in autumn, wintering mostly around the North Sea or the Irish Sea. Some may move large distances in winter, having been regularly recorded as far south as Mauretania or even Nigeria. In the UK, birds from northern Europe swell the population between July-May.

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