Rare golden eagle chick born into captivity in Co Louth

The eaglet was born on Wednesday and was ‘hopping about’ by the following day

Brian McCann from Newgrange Falconry, Drogheda, with his golden eagle chick bred through artificial insemination.  ‘It has been so long since I have had a chick that I had given up hope.’ Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Brian McCann from Newgrange Falconry, Drogheda, with his golden eagle chick bred through artificial insemination. ‘It has been so long since I have had a chick that I had given up hope.’ Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A rare golden eagle chick was born at a falconry school in Co Louth on Wednesday after being bred through artificial insemination.

The chick had its first feed early on Thursday morning at its home at Newgrange Falconry in the Boyne Valley.

Owner Brian McCann was the first person in Ireland to breed golden eagles through the process of artificial insemination, for which the birds are willing participants.

“It is very hard to get it right... This is the first time in about four years that we have had a chick,” he said.

The gender of the eaglet is not yet known, but Mr McCann has an inkling it is female: “You would want to see her this morning, she was hopping about and on her legs. It was fantastic.”

The pregnancy came as a surprise, as the father, Boru, is 33 years old and the mother, Sky, is about 28, Mr McCann said. Boru was bred in Germany, while Sky is originally from Russia. Mr McCann said he had been trying to breed from the parent golden eagles for a number of years.

“It has been so long since I have had a chick that I had given up hope.”

Black spot

He had discovered the insemination had been successful when a black spot was visible inside the egg, he explained.

“You go into a darkened room and put a bright light behind the egg... I really couldn’t believe it was fertile.”

Golden eagles live to about 50 years of age in captivity and 30 in the wild, provided they are not hunted, Mr McCann said. They grow to an impressive size, with a wingspan of around two metres.

“They are incredibly intelligent and are at the top of the food chain... The young eagle will probably outlive me,” he added.

Lorcan O’Toole, project manager with Ireland’s Golden Eagle Trust, said few people can breed golden eagles in captivity as it requires special skills.

The Golden Eagle was reintroduced into the wild in Ireland two decades ago. Mr O’Toole estimated there are now about 25 to 30 wild golden eagles on the island of Ireland. A few are in Northern Ireland, while the majority of them have settled in Co Donegal, he said.

Things are “improving” for wild eagles, buzzards and other birds of prey in Ireland, Mr O’Toole said. “The public seems to have a better understanding of them and appreciate the majesty of the species.”

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