White-tailed eagles hatch in Irish Republic again

WTE iRELAND 2013 Co Clare Allan MeeSome good news for a change….

For the second year running, white-tailed eagle chicks have hatched successfully at the Mountshannon nest in Co. Clare, as well as at a nest in west Cork in the Irish Republic.

The chick in the Mountshannon nest is the sibling of last year’s chick (see photo by Allan Mee), which was one of the first white-tailed eagles to fledge in Ireland in over 100 years, only to be shot and killed nine months later (see here).

These eagles have been reintroduced to Ireland following their extinction in the early 20th Century thanks to human persecution. Between 2007-2011, one hundred young eagles, donated by Norway, were released into Killarney National Park. The reintroduction project has been managed by the Golden Eagle Trust, who have published the following press statement about this year’s breeding success:

The first white-tailed eagle chicks of the year have been hatched in Co Clare and west Cork in recent weeks, it was announced today.

The rare birds were born in nests at Mountshannon, Co Clare and Glengarriff in west Cork, according to the Golden Eagle Trust which runs the reintroduction programme .

The chick born in Mountshannon is a sibling of a bird which was shot and killed three months ago. The deceased bird was one of two chicks born to the Mountshannon pair last year which became the first chicks to fly from a nest in Ireland in over a century. The crime is under investigation by the Garda.

The chick born in Glengarriff, the first of the year to hatch, unfortunately died at two weeks old. This was likely due to a combination of bad weather and inexperienced adults, Golden Eagle Trust project manager Dr Alan Mee said.

Nesting pairs at sites in Kerry and Galway have also laid eggs which have yet to hatch. At least half of the fourteen pairs of eagles across four counties have nested and laid eggs in recent weeks. Some pairs, including a nest in Killarney National Park, failed to breed.

These are the latest chicks in the reintroduction programme which began in 2007 with the release of 100 young Norwegian eagles in Killarney National Park .

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihandescribed it as “A very promising development after the shocking killing earlier this year. That was a dark day for this ambitious project to reintroduce these magnificent birds of prey into Ireland,” he said. “I hope these young eagles will have a long life in our skies,” he said.

The pair at Mountshannon gives the general public a chance to see some of the most spectacular birds at close quarters.

Dr Mee warned about risks of disturbance during the early stages of nesting which would be detrimental to success and could result in chicks being left unguarded. “We would caution people not to approach the nest area but instead avail of the unique opportunity to watch from nearby Mountshannon pier,” he said.

He continued: “The increase in the number of nesting pairs is encouraging and bodes well for the future of the species. White-tailed eagles can live for 25 to 30 years and generally mate for life. Ultimately the viability of the reintroduced programme depends on these chicks going on to breed themselves in Ireland. Each step brings us closer to that goal”.

The reintroduced birds came from Norway and the Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland, Roald Naess, also welcomed the news: “This is an excellent example of international cooperation on the practical level, aiming at preserving nature and biodiversity for the benefit of future generations”.

The white-tailed eagle reintroduction project is managed by the Golden Eagle Trust with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. One hundred white-tailed eagles were released in Killarney National, park between 2007 and 2011 and 29 have been recovered dead, mainly due to illegal poisoning.

The birds were historically a part of the Irish landscape before being made extinct in the early 20th century due to human persecution.

Well done to all involved in this historic conservation effort and best of luck to this year’s young pioneering birds. Let’s hope the sea eagle reintroduction project in East Scotland has equal success and that any chicks that manage to fledge here are able to survive for longer than last year’s bird, which un-mysteriously disappeared on a grouse moor in the North East Glens last month (see here).

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