Wildlife at Murlough National Nature Reserve

A visit to Murlough National Nature Reserve is a wildlife lovers dream with hundreds of species of insect, swathes of beautiful wildflower, mammals and birds and your doorstep.


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.


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 - Palpita vitrealis is a migrant species from southern Europe and has only been recorded twice in N Ireland
Black rustic- Black rustic (Aporophyla nigra) is an autumn species which can sometimes be quite common at Murlough.
Pink-barred sallow - Pink-barred sallow (Xanthia togata) appears to bring a splash of color to an otherwise dull day.

The pigmy shrew

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 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.


Pale-bellied brent goose - One of the most important wildfowl species that visit Dundrum Inner Bay.
Little egret - Once a rarity in Ireland the little egret population has seen an increase in recent years.
Stonechat - Stonechats are insectivores occurring in open scrubland around Murlough.
Dunlin - Mainly a winter visitor to Dundrum Bay this is the standard small wading bird.