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 Deenihan described 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”, he said.
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 a nesting pair of sea eagles from nearby Mountshannon pier,” he said.
The increase in the number of nesting pairs is “encouraging” and “bodes well for the future of the species” he said. 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,” he said.
The reintroduced birds came from Norway and the Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland 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,” Roald Næss said.
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 here in the early 20th century due to human persecution.