A powdered quaker moth at Murlough NNR © Andrew Crory

A powdered quaker moth at Murlough NNR


Murlough boasts a diverse range of fauna on the reserve. Over 620 species of butterfly and moths can be found including the UK BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) priority species, marsh fritillary butterfly. A mixture of cattle, ponies and rabbits can be found grazing the land. They help shape the habitats which are perfect for Murlough’s invertebrate species, as well as the common lizard which preys upon some of our invertebrates. If you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of one of the bigger mammals on the reserve – the fox, badger or stoat. Murlough is also a treat for birdwatchers to see farmland birds and coastal birds, and Dundrum inner bay offers great views of many of our wintering waders. Keep an eye out for the seals at Ballykinlar beach as you often see them hauling out from the beach.


Male marsh fritillary butterfly

There are 23 species of butterflies at Murlough. The reserve is one of the last strongholds of the endangered marsh fritillary. This species needs sunny slopes and hollows to thrive and on the reserve there are areas that are home to colonies of this butterfly, with an abundance of devil's bit scabious, which is their food source. Other well-known species include the small copper, the common blue, the painted lady and many more.

Moths of Murlough

  • Palpita vitrealis found at Murlough National Nature Reserve © Andrew Crory

    Palpita vitrealis

    Palpita vitrealis is a migrant species from southern Europe and has only been recorded twice in N Ireland

  • Black rustic moth found at Murlough National Nature Reserve © Andrew Crory

    Black rustic

    Black rustic (Aporophyla nigra) is an autumn species which can sometimes be quite common at Murlough.

  • Pink-barred Sallow found at Murlough National Nature Reserve © Andrew Crory

    Pink-barred sallow

    Pink-barred sallow (Xanthia togata) appears to bring a splash of color to an otherwise dull day.

The pigmy shrew

Pigmy shrew rescued at Murlough National Nature Reserve

The Pygmy shrew is the smallest mammal found in the UK, it is in fact smaller than some of our insects, and can sometimes be found sleeping in the burrows of some beetles. A fully grown pygmy shrew is around a quarter of the size of a house mouse. The average weight is around 4 grams although they can range from 2.4-6.1 grams and this can decrease by up to 28% in winter. They are often referred to as 'annuals' since their life span, at best, is around 15 months.


Rabbits at Murlough

Rabbits were originally introduced to Murlough in the 12th century and bred as a source of food and fur for Normans. In fact many locals will still refer to Murlough as 'The Warren'.

The rabbit populations here play an important part in maintaining the structure and biodiversity of Murlough and conveniently help keep the low density heathland ecosystem which allows many wildflower, heather and lichen populations to flourish.


  • Brent Geese eating by the shore © National Trust

    Pale-bellied brent goose

    One of the most important wildfowl species that visit Dundrum Inner Bay.

  • Little Egret can be seen in Dundrum Inner Bay © Dave Crawshaw

    Little egret

    Once a rarity in Ireland the little egret population has seen an increase in recent years.

  • Dunlin on Strangford Lough © Jeff Copner


    Mainly a winter visitor to Dundrum Bay this is the standard small wading bird.

  • Stonechat calling from gorse bush -  © www.richardcrossenphotography.co.uk


    Stonechats are insectivores occurring in open scrubland around Murlough.

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The magic of Murlough