As a child, Seán Ronayne watched birds feeding in the garden from his kitchen window in Cobh, County Cork, Ireland. At 14, he could identify most by their sounds. Now, aged 35, he is on a mission to record the sounds of every bird species in Ireland. Due to intensive farming, 63% of its native bird species are at risk of extinction because Ireland has lost 90% of its wetlands, more than any other country in the world, and has just 1% native tree cover, the lowest in Europe. By far the most popular section of Ronayne’s public talks is when he describes the ability of some birds to mimic other birds and animals, such as the common whitethroat, which breeds in Ireland in summer before migrating through the Mediterranean to winter in west Africa and absorbs and repeats every other bird sound it hears on its migrations.

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