White-tailed sea eagle found dead as a result of avian flu

Wild birds in Donegal and Offaly have also been confirmed positive for H5N1 strain

A rare white-tailed sea eagle has been found dead as a result of avian influenza.

The bird was found near Tarbert, Co Kerry, and a veterinary laboratory in Limerick confirmed that it was avian influenza (H5N1).

This is the same highly pathogenic strain which has already been detected last week in a peregrine falcon in Co Galway.

Wild birds in Donegal and Offaly have also been confirmed positive for H5N1 , including mute swans, whooper swans and wild geese.

The white-tailed sea eagles are Ireland’s largest bird of prey. They were driven to extinction in the late 19th century and reintroduced into the wild in 2007.

The population remains small with just 10 confirmed pairs as of last year so the loss of even one bird is regarded as significant. Twenty-one chicks were released into the wild in August to bolster their numbers.

The death has been described by Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan as "concerning".

“There is the immediate issue of the direct impacts on birds generally. And also, of course, there may be issues arising that impact on birds of conservation concern, including those being reintroduced to the wild under projects such as the flagship white-tailed sea eagle reintroduction project,” he said.

Risk to humans

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said it was important that owners of domestic flocks should remain vigilant. “We should do everything that we can to ensure that potentially infected wild birds do not have contact with domestic flocks,” he said.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that although the H5N1 subtype can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, no human infections with this virus have been reported worldwide and therefore consider the risk to humans to be very low.

Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs are safe to eat.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times

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