Adelaide Thermes Kane perches on Kathleen Harris’s Birdsong

There are about 200 species of bird that nest on the island of Ireland. These range from the regular visitors to your garden like finches, to more elusive species like the white-tailed eagle. They make their home in just about every location: cities, forests, or mountains. It is inarguable that no matter where in the country you live, these animals will make an appearance in your daily routine, whether by sight or sound.

The presence of birds in our lives is just another thing that we take for granted. This is why, back in January, the Irish public was captivated by the work and passion of Cork ornithologist, Seán Ronayne, when he featured on The Tommy Tiernan Show to promote the film’s premiere at the Dublin International Film Festival. Now, five months later, RTÉ has broadcast Birdsong for the nation; a documentary a year in the making that follows Ronayne on his journey to record every bird species in Ireland. 

Birdsong is more than a simple observation of nature. Through Ronayne, the natural Irish landscape is framed to remind us how this incredible beauty is something vital to be protected. Ronayne himself is open about his love for birds and this passion is the driving force of the film. His unabashed focus is stutteringly human and the essence of what makes this film so alluring. 

Ronayne travels across the country, from the Skelligs, to the Burren, and up to Donegal in his search to observe individual species. The striking scenery is set against VO from Ronayne on location, as well as his formal talks promoting his work. Whether speaking to children or adults, the audience is always captivated by his incredible knowledge and database of sound. His website,, is an extensive database that remains open for free for anyone. His openness, in exploring both biodiversity and neurodiversity,  provides quietly intimate insights into both Ronayne and his world. 

Watching Ronayne traverse Ireland, sometimes joined by his partner, Alba, is a wonderfully enlightening experience. His ability to recognise every bird call is so fascinating that it almost makes you wish you could go for a walk through the woods with him, just to see it in action. Birdsong is a beautifully authentic piece and shows Ireland at its very best, in all its natural glory.

Birdsong premiered in DIFF 2024 and is available to stream on the RTÉ Player now. 

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