Where eagles soar — white-tailed eagle chicks spread their wings in the west

Where to now... one of the White-tailed eagle chicks at the release site, in the West of Ireland as they spread their wings further into Irish skies

Where to now... one of the White-tailed eagle chicks at the release site, in the West of Ireland as they spread their wings further into Irish skies

Over the past week, twenty-four white-tailed eagle chicks have been released in locations around the west of Ireland, Lough Derg, the Shannon Estuary as part of a long term reintroduction programme managed by the NPWS.

White-tailed eagles are predators who play an important role in nature and the ecosystem. Once native to Ireland, they became extinct in the nineteenth century. Since 2007, the NPWS has been working with partners in Norway along with farmers and communities around the country to reintroduce the white-tailed eagle to Ireland.

Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, who released four chicks at Killarney National Park as part of the release programme, said the juvenile white-tailed eagles we have released this week are joining a growing population across our island.

“This incredible endeavour is the result of 16 years’ work and collaboration, not just on the reintroduction programme, but also on habitat restoration and engagement with landowners to secure their ongoing protection.

“These apex predators perform a vital role in our ecosystems and the sight of them soaring in the thermals is a privilege that everyone who lives in or visits Ireland will now have the opportunity to enjoy.

“I would like to pay tribute to NPWS staff for their commitment and dedication to this initiative, our international partners from Norway, and the communities around the country who are embracing the return of the white-tailed eagle to our landscapes.”

“A comprehensive satellite tagging system is now in place so that the birds can be monitored as they disperse around the country.

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien who also participated in the release of chicks at in the vicinity of Lough Derg said this reintroduction programme is the result of a combined effort by my Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service, participating landowners and communities and endangered species experts. I commend each of them for the role they are playing in protecting these iconic birds of prey.”

Niall Ó Donnchú, Director General with the NPWS said this programme is one of several initiatives underway in the NPWS to protect endangered species in Ireland and prevent their decline.

“This work takes time, and calls for a partnership approach if it is to be sustainable in the long term. Collaboration with the science community and international partners, along with the involvement of our expert staff and communities around the country has been key to the success we have seen so far,” he said.

Eamonn Meskell, Divisional Manager NPWS, Killarney National Park who heads up the white-tailed eagle reintroduction Programme feels there is huge interest from the public in the white-tailed eagle programme.

“Locations where they are spotted attract many visitors and local interest and we love to hear about sightings of the birds around Ireland and further afield. There are great stories to tell about the project. For example, the first Irish bred female to breed in over a hundred years has fledged seven chicks in three years.

“In Lough Derg this year for the second time a nesting pair fledged triplets. This is incredibly unusual – even in the wilds of Norway, and it shows how well suited Ireland really is for the white-tailed eaglefrom both a habitat and a feeding perspective. We’ll be watching this year’s chicks with interest as they mature and hopefully go on to fledge more chicks.”

Bente Lyngstad, chargé d’affaires at the Norwegian Embassy in Ireland said that watching the release of the white-tailed sea eagles is a truly extraordinary and mighty experience.

“Over the years more than 150 eagle chicks have been collected in Norway and released in Ireland. Today’s stock in Ireland is the result of a long-term collaboration between Norway and Ireland, which again stems from our deep friendship and our shared values. I would like to acknowledge all volunteers whose efforts have been imperative to make this happen.

The retention of species is essential for maintaining the intricate web of life and the functioning of ecosystems. It contributes to the sustainable use of natural resources and the well-being of both present and future generations. Yet we now see a rapid loss of species world-wide. This development must be halted. The reintroduction of white-tailed sea eagles into their natural habitat is a great example of how we can work together against biodiversity loss,” said Bente Lyngstad.


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