Fifteen Whooper Swans electrocuted in Co Donegal


At least 15 Whooper Swans were electrocuted at a single site in north-east Co Donegal earlier this autumn, according to BirdWatch Ireland.

The swan carcasses were discovered lying under electricity lines near the village of Carrigans, close to the border with Northern Ireland. BirdWatch Ireland staff member Daniel Moloney travelled to the scene and confirmed that the swans had collided with the wires in flight and that they had each been electrocuted. A high proportion of the dead swans were juveniles.

It appears that the deaths were the result of multiple, separate collisions with the electricity wires over a period of several weeks. Some of the birds were freshly dead, while others showed varying levels of decomposition, indicating that they had died on different occasions.

Two of the dead Whooper Swans found under electricity wires near Carrigans, Co Donegal (Daniel Moloney/Birdwatch Ireland).

The culpable wires were fitted with "deflectors", which are supposed to make them more visible to flying birds, but these appear not to have worked satisfactorily in this case. Indeed, several of the deflector devices had been knocked off the wires due to the swan collisions, further reducing the wires' visibility.

BirdWatch Ireland's Niall Hatch said: "It is very concerning that these migratory Whooper Swans have been electrocuted in Carrigans, especially in such large numbers. Ireland hosts internationally important numbers of Whooper Swans each autumn and winter, and it has a special responsibility to conserve and protect them. We sincerely hope that measures can be put in place to prevent further swan deaths as soon as possible."

Whooper Swans are winter visitors to Ireland, arriving each autumn in family groups from their nesting grounds in Iceland. The species is listed in Annex 1 of the EU Birds Directive and consequently is afforded special protection under Irish law and is subject to special conservation measures.