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Sad news as Irish white-tailed eagle chick dies of natural causes

Eagle chick dies of natural causes in Co. Cork
The young eagle chick being fitted with a satellite tag at c. 8 weeks of age. (Image via Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve / NPWS © Tony Nagle)

News broke yesterday of a devastating development for the family of white-tailed eagles in Glengarriff, Co. Cork when it was announced that the 10 week old chick had died in the nest of natural causes just days before it was expected to fledge.

One of five pairs of white-tailed eagle breeding in Ireland this year, the Glengarriff pair had successfully raised what appeared to be a healthy chick that was well on track to become the first Cork born eagle to take to the skies for more than 100 years. Then disaster struck.

The chick was seen moving in the nest with its parents, apparently healthy, on Thursday 25 June. But by Friday afternoon it became apparent to observers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Golden Eagle Trust that the chick was not moving. On Saturday morning their worst fears were confirmed when they checked the nest and found the chick’s body. A post mortem at the regional veterinary laborotory established that the chick died of natural causes — it’s intestine blocked by a sheaf of long tail feathers believed to be from a young crow.

Posting on the Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve page on Facebook, local NPWS conservation ranger Clare Heardman had this to say:

“The loss of the chick is devastating news for everyone involved in the project and for all of you who have been following the eagles’ progress, although it’s of some comfort to know it was neither poisoned nor shot.

“We had been quietly confident that this was going to be the first wild Cork-born chick to fledge in 100 years, but nature can be hard and disaster can strike. For example a chick in Killarney also died at 10 weeks of age back in 2013 when it fell out of the nest. However, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept the loss of such a magnificent young bird. It was especially heart-breaking to watch the Glengarriff parents holding vigil over the nest for at least 24 hours from when the chick died to when it was collected by the Golden Eagle Trust and National Parks & Wildlife Service.”

You can see the full post from Facebook below:

It’s hard to find the right words to break this news, but there is very sad news from the white tailed eagle family in…

Posted by Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve on Tuesday, 30 June 2015

While it is a sad end to the 2015 breeding season for the Glengarriff pair, the fact that the parents reared a chick to this advanced stage bodes well for their success in the future. Despite the setback with another 4 nests around the country with chicks due to fledge in the coming weeks, 2015 is still shaping up to be a milestone year for the white-tailed eagle reintroduction project.

For more information on the white-tailed sea eagle reintroduction programme check out the Golden Eagle Trust’s website.

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