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Irish eagle numbers boosted

Ten new White-tailed Eagle chicks arrived in Ireland from Norway last week to bolster population numbers as Phase II of the ongoing White-tailed Eagle reintroduction programme got underway.

Irish White Tailed Eagle Population Boost
Eamonn Meskell, left holding the crate, Regional Manager, NPWS, and Philip Buckley Divisional Manager, Southern Region, NPWS, watched on by Allan Mee, centre, White Tailed Eagle Project and right of picture Howard Jones, Kerry Airport. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan via The Department of Culture, Heritage & The Gaeltacht

The ambitious reintroduction programme, a joint initiative between the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Golden Eagle Trust, began with the release of 100 Norwegian birds to Killarney National Park between 2007 and 2011. The first pair bred successfully in Ireland in 2013, rearing 2 chicks on Lough Derg, near Mountshannon.

This year project officials expect six fledglings from five different breeding sites around the country, bringing the total number of Irish-hatched birds to 32.

The outlook for the project is optimistic, but a recent scientific review highlighted the vulnerability of the small Irish population to mortality factors like illegal poisoning, shooting, freak weather events and illness. Phase II of the reintroduction, which will take place over the next three years, aims to mitigate those risks by bolstering the nascent Irish population, starting with the release of these 10 young eagles at three sites in Munster.

“This latest operation, under Phase Two of the conservation project, was an incredible team effort between the wildlife personnel both here and in Norway,” commented then Minister of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan, TD as she welcomed the new arrivals. “Thanks to their logistical work, bringing the latest influx of White-tailed Eagles to these shores, the future is positive for the eagle, which had been extinct in Ireland for over a century. The latest conservation intervention cements the work already done in bringing these graceful birds back to our skies, and I would like to express my appreciation for all involved in lending this hand to nature.”

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