GIANT CRANES have returned to Ireland for the first time in over 300 years.
The giant birds feature heavily in old Irish folklore and mythology, but have not bred in the country for centuries.
Now a pair of cranes have settled in a bog in the midlands, with animal experts optimistic that the pair could breed and naturally reintroduce the species to the Emerald Isle.
The pair were first spotted by former turf and peat producer Bord na Móna, who in January rewetted thousands of hectares of boglands after they announced they would permanently cease peat production.
A spokesperson for the company announced the news that a pair of Cranes had been spotted nesting with a statement on social media, writing:
"In what is a sighting of particular significance, we recently recorded a pair of Cranes nesting at a site on a rewetted bog. If they successfully breed, they will be the first Common Cranes to do so in Ireland in 300 years."
In what is a sighting of particular significance, we recently recorded a pair of Cranes nesting at a site on a rewetted bog. If they successfully breed, they will be the first Common Cranes to do so in Ireland in 300 years.
Read more: https://t.co/bVW94CIv3Q pic.twitter.com/b5MgAzT5nH
— Bord na Móna (@BordnaMona) May 3, 2021
The enormous birds, who can grow up to 4 feet tall with a wingspan of 7 feet, were hunted to extinction in Ireland between the years of 1600 - 1700.
There are high hopes the species could re-establish themselves in Ireland as the cranes begin nesting, and a juvenile bird was discovered in an estuary last autumn, BBC News reports.
"It would be suspected that if it was a juvenile crane, it bred somewhere in Ireland," Bord na Móna lead ecologist Mark McCorry told the outlet.
"So it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that this pair of cranes are not the only pair now in Ireland.
"There are suggestions that there could be other birds here now and potentially it could have been the Bord na Móna pair which produced this juvenile, or it could have been from another pair somewhere else."
Cranes are immortalised in Irish mythology, featuring heavily in old myths and legends, and were once popular pets in medieval times.
Hunting from humans and other predators such as foxes, as well as the destruction of the Crane's natural habitat, all led to it's eventual extinction in Ireland.