23 more white-tailed eagles donated by Norway for release in Ireland

Phase two of the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles in the Irish Republic continued last week with the arrival of 23 young eaglets from Norway.

These young birds, collected under licence by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, arrived at Kerry Airport on a chartered flight on Friday and they’ll be looked after in specially-made flight pens until their release in to the wild in August.

After being driven to extinction in Ireland in the early 20th century, an ambitious reintroduction project began in 2007 as a collaborative effort between the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Ireland, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research in Norway, the Golden Eagle Trust in Ireland and a lot of volunteer farmers and supporters on the ground.

[Project Manager Dr Allan Mee with a young white-tailed eagle during phase one of the reintroduction]

100 young white-tailed eagles were released in the Killarney National Park during phase one between 2007 and 2011 and this has resulted in at least ten breeding pairs becoming established in Kerry, Galway, Clare, Tipperary and Cork producing at least 30 chicks between them.

However, a recent scientific review of the reintroduction project indicated the small population is still vulnerable to factors such as illegal poisoning and the breeding population was negatively impacted by Avian Influenza in 2018 and storm Hannah in 2019.

A decision was made to conduct supplementary releases over a period of three years to bolster the existing population. Ten eagles were reintroduced last year (see here), this latest batch of 23 new arrivals will be released this year and more are expected to be released next year.

It’s an interesting time for this species. With the on-going reintroduction project on the Isle of Wight attracting widespread support and interest, an apparent green-light to begin a reintroduction in Norfolk met with mixed support and antipathy, a lot of interest in a proposed reintroduction to Wales, on-going persecution issues in eastern Scotland and general hysteria generated by the National Farmers Union Scotland, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and parts of the media about the perceived damage supposedly being caused by sea eagles in parts of western Scotland (more on that topic soon), it’s not clear to me how the white-tailed eagle will fare over the coming years.

If it’s still not even safe for one to fly over the Cairngorms National Park without becoming victim to a poisoned bait (e.g. see here) then we have to recognise there is still much work to do.

4 thoughts on “23 more white-tailed eagles donated by Norway for release in Ireland”

  1. It would be timely to remember we’ve been here before https://www.scotsman.com/news/sea-eagles-not-taking-lambs-slaughter-2473455 This looks like round two after the dust has settled from the first one and lessons learned from that will no doubt be put to use. Someone who is in a position to know has told me they’ve heard two MSPs privately laughing/groaning/complaining about the vast amount of subsidy, grants, rebates and general financial help crofters, farmers and fishermen receive, but they still want more, it’s never enough. I have to say that was pretty much my experience dealing with crofters on Lewis. The problem is that in public those same MSPs are repeating the claims of poverty made by those who in private they’re (rightly) deriding. That’s what this is all about waiting for somebody to break the taboo and point out certain people and their friends are nothing more than serial chancers, there’s no lack of evidence (e.g Gairloch), just the will to use it.

    The vast majority of us who aren’t part of that nasty cabal are having the piss ripped out of us to the cost of those who REALLY need financial help and political support. Sea eagles are just a part of this, it’s also about householders in Fort William with no access to mains gas who struggle to keep their children warm and people in dire bedsits who can’t get hold of their landlords because they’re constantly on holiday in Thailand or Australia. They get virtually sweet FA in help or sympathy compared to the buckets of cash and abject fawning the ‘poor’ crofters have thrown at them. I’ve personally experienced this sorry spectrum and reserve the right to be utterly fucking furious about it even without this latest attempt to use sea eagles as leverage to access the compensation pipeline from Holyrood. The people who don’t feel the same are those still in the dark.

  2. I really think it is a mistake and a bit cruel to move these birds from habitats where they are flourishing to dangerous places where they will suffer at the hands of gamekeepers and such who seem to be able to do just as they please because the UK authorities are it seems more interested in pleasing the shooters than complying with the law and protecting wildlife.

    1. TBH if these young birds are being moved into areas where their species is absent or their population is very low they’ll have one advantage in that competition for even the best territories will be very, very limited. That will give them a much higher, all other things being equal, chance of survival than where they came from where the population may have been at saturation point. I may very well be wrong, but in some cases I think birds have even come into sexual maturity earlier than expected in these more benign circumstances. I do sympathise with your sentiments though, it’s especially heart breaking and infuriating when reintroduced birds are lost to persecution.

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