The Stacks to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick Hills and Mount Eagle IBA is located on the border between the counties Cork, Kerry and Limerick.
The site is bisected by the N21 and is surrounded by the towns of Newcastle West, Abbeyfeale, Tralee, Castle Island and Ballydesmond.
Almost half of the site is afforested, with Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) and Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) being the principal species. The forests include first and second rotation plantations, with pre-thicket and post-thicket stands and also extensive areas of clear-fell. About one-third of the site consists of unplanted blanket bog and heath, with both wet and dry heath present. Most of the remaining area is rough grass and is used for Hill farming.
The site is a stronghold for Circus cyaneus and is the most important site in Ireland, supporting over 29% of the country’s population (Barton et al. 2006). The combination of forestry and open areas provides optimum conditions for these birds. The early stages of new and second-rotation conifer plantations are the preferred nesting sites, and the young conifer plantations, heath and bog provide excellent foraging grounds for these rare birds, which are listed on Annex I of the E.U. Birds Directive. In Ireland, small birds and small mammals appear to be the most frequently taken prey.
Falco columbianus and Asio flammeus, also listed on Annex I of the E.U. Birds Directive, are known to breed on the site, and Red-listed Lagopus lagopus is resident.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The reduction and fragmentation of the foraging habitat caused by further afforestation is the main threat to the survival of Circus cyaneus. The site has a number of large wind farm developments, however it is not known if this will negatively affect the Circus cyaneus population.