Golden eagles hatch in Donegal


A pair of golden eagles has hatched two chicks in Glenveagh National Park, Co Donegal, in a significant milestone in the project to reintroduce the birds of prey to Ireland.

It is the same pair that reared a chick in 2007, but they failed to breed last year. Minister for the Environment John Gormley announced the development this afternoon.

“The chicks are still quite young and it is hoped that they may fledge in late July,” he said, outlining progress on the Golden Eagle project.

He said it was a “flagship biodiversity project” that also had the potential to attract much-needed tourism into the Donegal area.

The Minister said the fate of the birds would “largely depend on whether or not they encounter poisoned meat baits over the coming years”.

“Whilst we have continuously stressed the support the project receives from the large majority of landowners in Donegal, we must highlight that one or two individuals using poison each spring will take a steady toll on eagles annually,” he said.

“Indeed several sheep farmers have actually said they have noticed fewer incidents of newborn lambs being attacked by hooded crows in the upland areas where golden eagles have become established. Golden eagles catch and eat crows, which tend to be very weary whilst traversing eagle territories.”

Mr Gormley said the current level of unlawful poisoning using banned substances to lace dead livestock left above ground, without notifying gardaí in writing or without erecting appropriate signage, “cannot be allowed to continue”.

He said his officials had already prepared a draft of new regulations which would effectively make it illegal to put out poisoned meat or fish- based bait for any purpose.

“I am anxious to have these regulations put in place as quickly as possible.”

Speaking on RTE Radio 1’s Mooneyprogramme this afternoon, Mr Gormley said: “It’s about changing mindsets, because if people were really thinking about this they just would not do what they are doing.”

The Golden Eagle Trust has managed to establish a population of four territorial pairs of golden eagles in the northwest since the reintroduction programme began in 2001. Prior to that, the birds had been extinct as breeding species in the Republic since 1912.

A second pair of Golden Eagles is incubating eggs elsewhere in Donegal at the moment, though this pair has not yet managed to hatch any young.

Four other territories are occupied (by two young pairs and two single adults) and a fifth pair and another single bird seem to be establishing themselves this year in Donegal, the Department of the Environment said.

Manager of the Golden Eagle Trust project Lorcán O Toole said: "This is a very welcome and timely for the Golden Eagle project.

“After the difficulties we have encountered with the unforeseen shortage of Scottish donor stock and the disappointment that the Glenveagh pair failed to breed last year and the confirmation of a Golden Eagle poisoned in February, this pair has once again restored the project’s momentum.

“We have an anxious few months ahead. It would be very encouraging if the pair can manage to successfully rear a chick again and if everything goes well, they could even rear both chicks in Glenveagh.”

Mr O’Toole said those working on the project were nonetheless very aware of the potential pitfalls and had experience of natural failures in the past.

“But hopefully come August, the occasional visitor walking down the Glenveagh path may have a brief encounter with a family party of three, or even four, soaring golden eagles.”

“Once again we would like to highlight the support the project has received from the vast majority of farmers and people living in the hills of Donegal.

“The project team also wish to thank the National Parks and Wildlife Service conservation rangers and staff in Glenveagh and Donegal and numerous volunteers who have played a key role in monitoring the nest to date.”