Endangered red-listed bird flies home in rewilding project

Kestrel is a species of falcon was designated as an endangered species in Ireland this year

An endangered red-listed kestrel bird has been rewilded back into nature at Dunsany Castle, Co Meath on Tuesday after spending four months at a wildlife rehabilitation hospital.

The hospital, run by voluntary organisation Wildlife Rehabilitation Ireland (WRI) opened in February of this year to save injured, sick and orphaned wild animals.

Aoife McPartlin, education officer at WRI said the bird was “raring to go – As soon as we took her out she took straight up into the trees, it was lovely.”

The kestrel is a species of falcon and was released onto Dunsany estate, owned by the Baron of Dunsany Castle, Randall Plunkett, in a project to rewild the 1,700 acre estate. To date, the hospital has rewilded 10 fox cubs, 12 hedgehogs, two buzzards and three otters into the estate grounds.

The young kestrel was originally found on the ground of a church yard in Waterford by a member of the public who was "anxious" about leaving the young bird.

“It would have been in danger of predation if somebody had not intervened,” said Ms McPartlin.

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan, who attended the release, said to recognise the contribution of the WRI he will be allocating €20,000 in emergency funding to the organisation.

“My department will consider a dedicated grant scheme for organisations assisting injured or abandoned wildlife, along with other departments.

“While the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s role is licensing the handling of wildlife, we value the efforts of WRI and other charities as we work together to address the biodiversity emergency.”

The Minister added, “I would also like to commend Randall Plunkett and his family for their passion and dedication in restoring nature on their land. It’s truly admirable.”

The rehabilitation hospital, which has three more kestrels in its possession, received the bird four months ago and upon its release Ms McPartlin said, “she became very feisty and she was brilliant by the time we were releasing her”.

Kestrels have declined in Ireland by 53 per cent over the past 25 years and became a red-listed endangered species in April of this year. Ms McPartlin says it is because “land use and farming methods have diminished its habitat.

“There is just less and less area for it to survive in, that is the problem. We are impacting on its environment so greatly that its numbers have declined so much in the last 10 years that they have been declared as a bird of conservation.”