First golden eagle chick bred in Irish captivity

Achievement in Louth gives hope of being able to sustain populations of birds of prey

Brian McCann, who owns the Newgrange Falconry in Co Louth, with the golden eagle chick he bred in captivity. It is hoped his achievement will help efforts to reintroduce birds of prey and sustain their populations here. Photograph: Ciara Wilkinson

Brian McCann, who owns the Newgrange Falconry in Co Louth, with the golden eagle chick he bred in captivity. It is hoped his achievement will help efforts to reintroduce birds of prey and sustain their populations here. Photograph: Ciara Wilkinson

 

A golden eagle chick has been bred in captivity for the first time in Ireland and it is hoped the achievement may help efforts to reintroduce birds of prey and sustain their populations here.

The chick is just over two weeks old and was bred – using artificial insemination – by Brian McCann who owns Newgrange Falconry, a mobile falconry based in Co Louth.

Mr McCann said he has been trying to successfully breed from the parent golden eagles for a number of years. Breeding in captivity is challenging but “we have been very, very lucky this year”, he said.

“This has been a fantastic thing to do as it has never been done in Ireland before.” He owns the parent birds – Olga is Russian while Odin is German. Olga is successfully caring for her eaglet, which is her first offspring: “The parents are two very fabulous and beautiful birds.”

He said he had assisted the chick at the very end of its hatching. This was approximately 47 days after the egg was laid.

The egg had been in an incubator and he said, “timing is crucial. If you do it too early you can kill the chick. It has to be done at a stage where the chick has developed significantly enough so that you can help.

“The chick had done a lot of the work and the last final hurdle was a small bit of the shell that had to be broken to free the chick from the egg. I did that.”

Problems with breeding golden eagles in the Glenveagh National Park in Donegal have been highlighted recently. Only two chicks were born in 2015, and neither survived more than a few weeks. Only one chick survived in 2014.

Modern techniques

Lorcan O’Toole, of the Golden Eagle Trust, said in response to the chick being bred, “it is a great achievement and a very difficult thing to do. Hopefully Mr McCann raises awareness of eagles by his public engagements. It would be great for Irish children to see his chick when it is older.”