Norway-born white-tailed eagle chicks released in Ireland to boost population

Second phase of reintroduction project sees 21 chicks take to the skies in Munster

Satellite tags will allow staff at the NPWS to monitor the birds’ progress and their integration into the existing Irish breeding population. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

Satellite tags will allow staff at the NPWS to monitor the birds’ progress and their integration into the existing Irish breeding population. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

 

White-tailed eagle chicks, which were born in Norway and kept in purpose-built enclosures in Ireland until they were ready for flight, have been released into the wild as part of the second phase of a programme to bolster their population here.

Once a conspicuous part of Ireland’s landscape, they were driven to extinction by human persecution in the late 19th century.

The first phase of the reintroduction project ran from 2007-2011, managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Golden Eagle Trust. During that period 100 chicks were released into the wild.

Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan
Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

At the weekend, as part of the second phase of the project, 21 more eagle chicks transported from Norway were released into the wild at four sites in Munster – on the Shannon estuary, Lough Derg, Waterford and in Killarney National Park – as part of renewed efforts to increase their population in Irish skies.

The chicks were carefully monitored and tagged by NPWS staff, having been kept in purpose-built enclosures at the four locations since earlier this summer. They grew, matured and developed the feathers required for flight.

Satellite tags will allow staff at the NPWS to monitor their progress and their integration into the existing Irish breeding population.

First phase

The chicks were collected under licence in June from nests throughout the Trondheim area of west-central Norway by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

Since the first phase of the project, more than 35 Irish-born chicks have fledged here, some of whom have begun to rear their own chicks. Earlier this year, one nesting pair on Lough Derg produced three chicks. This is uncommon, even in the very extensive wild populations in Norway.

Satellite tags will allow staff at the NPWS to monitor the birds’ progress and their integration into the existing Irish breeding population. Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan
Photograph: Valerie O’Sullivan

The project has seen some setbacks along the way arising out of the vulnerability of the birds to poisoning, along with other debilitating factors, such as the avian flu and the impact of Storm Hannah.

Last year, the live-streaming of a white-tailed eagle nest in Glengarriff, Co Cork, proved to be a huge attraction, making a BBC list of the top 20 virtual nature attractions in the world.

Together with the mute swan, white-tailed eagles are the largest resident bird species in Ireland, with a wingspan of more than 1.8m and a body length of more than 90cm.