Sea eagles return to Irish nest


A pair of young white-tailed sea eagles have bred for the first time in Ireland in over a century.

The breeding pair – a four-year old male and three year-old female reintroduced here from Norway – have chosen an island on Lough Derg to nest, and are currently incubating their young.

The pair had settled in the Mountshannon area of Clare early last year, and began to build their nest in early April.

Dr Allan Mee, Irish White-tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction Programme project manager with the Golden Eagle Trust, told The Irish Times that it would be at least three weeks before the young hatched.

He described it today as a “truly momentous event for Clare and Ireland”, and appealed to the public to give the birds space. The trust has applied for an exclusion zone through the National Parks and Wildlife Service to ensure that the birds are not disturbed, and public viewing of the island will be facilitated at Mountshannon pier.

The pair were released in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry, and this is the first known nesting since the programme began in co-operation with Norway. The project is funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in partnership with Golden Eagle Trust.

Norumm Myklebust of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), expressed delight at the development, and said that the institute was proud to have co-operated in the programme.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan has also welcomed the development.

“Already the white-tailed eagles are a wonderful asset to tourism around Killarney and wider afield in Kerry, and their spread will benefit business as well as giving joy to anglers and naturalists around the Shannon,”Mr Deenihan has said.

White-tailed sea eagles, which were driven to extinction here in the early 20th century, are a protected species and it is an offence under the Wildlife Act to willfully disturb birds at the nest during the breeding season. To date, some 20 of the 100 birds introduced have been discovered dead, mainly due to poisoning.

The re-introduced birds have dispersed widely over the past four years, with at least six flying to Scotland, one flying over 2,000km to the Orkney islands and then returning to Kerry, and many crossing the border to the North.