Rare sea eagle killed by wind turbine


A WHITE-TAILED sea eagle introduced to the Killarney National Park from Norway three years ago has been killed after colliding with a wind turbine near Kilgarvan, an area designated as suitable for wind farms in the Kerry county development plan.

Although such collisions are common in Europe and the US, it is the first time a sea eagle has died here, or in Britain, due to a wind turbine, Dr Allan Mee, project manager for the reintroduction project, said.

The death is likely to cause a reappraisal of wind farm areas in the region.

The eagle, which had severed a leg, was found below a wind turbine at Sillahertane on the Cork-Kerry border earlier last month. A postmortem determined the cause of death as the strike with a wind blade. She had begun roosting and was likely to be one of the first of the eagles reintroduced here to breed this year or next.

Areas suitable for wind farms were decided before the raptor reintroduction programme, which brought in red kites and large birds of prey such as eagles five years ago.

These areas are likely to be reviewed now in the light of their effect on the introduced birds, which have low reproduction rates. There will also be a series of recommendations for existing wind farms, Dr Mee indicated.

“Over the next few years it will be important to assess how much white-tailed eagles use the existing wind farms, and whether they avoid wind farms to any extent. We will also work with wind farm operators to help reduce the risks of further collisions where possible.”

The effects of wind farms on protected birds is one of the single biggest obstacles to planning in Europe.

Poisoning, however, remains the chief cause of unnatural deaths of eagles here. So far some nine of the 77 birds introduced here since 2007 have died from poisoned bait ostensibly laid out for foxes and grey crows to protect lambs.

This is the last year of the reintroduction programme and about 20 birds are due in from Norway in early summer.

In Kerry for a fundraising dinner for the project on Thursday last, Norwegian ambassador Öyvind Nordsletten said he hoped recent laws strengthening the protection of birds of prey from poisoning would be enforced, as there was “a real chance” white-tailed sea eagles were going to start breeding here for the first time in more than 100 years.

Mr Nordsletten also said he had made it his business to meet then minister for the environment John Gormley and the legislation was strengthened.

“But it’s one thing to have stringent laws, it’s another to enforce them,” he said.

The practice of using poisoned meat bait was banned in October 2010 here. Fines of up to €5,000 may now be imposed on conviction.