The 2017 breeding season delivered some excellent news for the three native birds of prey that have been released and reintroduced into Ireland in recent decades. The Golden Eagle Trust (GET) was established in 1999 to try to restore and enhance our island’s native wildlife. As a wildlife charity, the GET spearheaded the return of Golden Eagles, White-tailed Eagles and Red kites in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and with vital support from the Heritage Council, The National Millennium Committee, Údarás na Gaeltachta and KPMG during the decades.
Numerous rural communities, such as Avoca, Mountshannon and Dunlewey, have welcomed the arrival of their local Eagles and Kites, which have enhanced the richness of their place and people. The understandable anxiety, at the outset of these three reintroduction programmes, has largely evaporated as these wild birds gradually became part of the local landscapes. The Golden Eagle Trust and National Parks & Wildlife Service would like to publically acknowledge the support of many individuals, volunteers, landowners, farmers, foresters, fishermen, ferrymen, ramblers and boating enthusiasts for their support and protection of territorial eagles and kites. The encouraging breeding outcomes for these 3 species of native birds of prey, this season, reflects that widening community support and involvement.
The small Golden Eagle population in County Donegal had a memorable breeding season in 2017, as three separate pairs fledged a single chick each. For the first time in a century, an Irish-bred Golden Eagle has bred successfully. The mother was born in Glenveagh and has paired with a Scottish - bred eagle, released as part of the reintroduction.
Golden Eagle pairs can now be found in the Derryveagh and Bluestack Mountains and the Glencolumbkille and Inishowen Peninsulas. Whilst this fragile population is still confined to County Donegal, the addition of three healthy juveniles to a small population total of 20-25 birds, is a very welcome boost.
Seven White-tailed Eagle chicks fledged from five nests in counties Kerry, Clare and Galway, in 2017, continuing the positive trend in the number of young fledged in the wild in Ireland, since the reintroduction of this once extinct eagle began in 2007. In total, nine pairs nested and laid eggs in 2017, with five of these pairs rearing chicks. Four pairs failed after laying eggs.
This brings the total of White-tailed Eagle chicks fledged successfully in the wild in Ireland to 21, since the first successful nesting on Lough Derg, near Mountshannon, Co. Clare, in 2013. Breeding pairs were found in Counties Cork, Kerry, Clare and Galway and territorial activity, by a young pair, was noted in Leinster. The increase in the number of pairs fledging young and the number of chicks being produced is encouraging. Although, we are some way yet from achieving the ultimate goal of the reintroduction project: a viable, self-sustaining breeding population. Over the coming years, it is hoped that the small breeding population will increase to fledge 10 chicks or more annually. While the number of breeding pairs remain small (up to 10), it is hoped that these numbers will be boosted in the next few years by wild-bred Irish eagles becoming mature and breeding for the first time themselves. This would be an important milestone for the project and would go some way towards securing the success of the reintroduction.
The Red Kite project along the east coast continues to go from strength to strength. More than 80 pairs of kites were recorded and they produced more than 60 young in 2017. When combined with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ restoration programme in County Down, it means that more than 100 pairs of kites are now established across the island of Ireland.
The Red Kites have been quickly integrated into the community fabric across its range and groups of kites, in flight or at communal roosts, are now a spectacle to behold, at all times of the year, particularly in many towns and villages in County Wicklow.
Kites in the Wicklow release area are gradually spreading out along the southern, northern and western parts of their range, which now stretches from Gorey, Wexford in the south to Roundwood in the north and from the coastal fringe to the Wicklow Mountains in the west. The Fingal Red Kite population was boosted again this year with two successful pairs, which produced five young between them. The Golden Eagle Trust remains buoyant about the prospects of the Red Kite in Ireland with the continued growth and expansion of the population.
The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan T.D., said, “I am delighted with the very positive news from the eagle reintroduction projects in 2017. In particular, the arrival of the first second generation Irish-bred Golden Eagle is a landmark and I hope this will be the start of better fortune for the Golden Eagles in the northwest. I want to thank the volunteers and staff in the Golden Eagle Trust for their work on this project which my Department continues to support.”
Ronan Hannigan (Chairperson, Golden Eagle Trust) said, “20 years ago people in Ireland rarely spoke about Eagles and Kites. Irish people still do not enthuse about Ospreys or Cranes – other extinct Irish birds. Imagine if Irish children never speak about Curlew or Corncrake, in 30 years’ time?”
Ronan added, “As we celebrate the gradual return of Eagles and Kites to Ireland, we are painfully aware of the decline in the numbers of Curlew, Corncrake and Hen Harrier and applaud the national efforts to stem these losses. All these birds are part of our intertwined Natural and Cultural Heritage and can be part of our legacy to future generations”.
In summary, we can now say that Ireland has Eagles establishing territories in Munster, Ulster, Connaught and Leinster and that Kites have a strong foothold on the East coast, including Counties Wicklow, Wexford, Dublin and Meath.
White-tailed Sea Eagles
“We are thrilled that pairs of white-tailed sea eagles are now breeding annually across the west of Ireland from West Cork to Connemara” said Dr. Allan Mee, Project Manager of the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction. “It’s fantastic to see another seven Irish-bred White-tailed Eagle chicks fly from nests in Ireland this year”. “These young eagles represent the first of what we hope are many more Irish bred White-tailed Eagles to fledge from nests over the next few years to form the basis of a viable self-sustaining Irish population. The signs are good that we can achieve this with eight or more pairs likely to breed annually over the next few years. Eagles are now nesting again in some of our most iconic scenic and cultural landscapes such as near Holy Island (Inis Cealtra) on Lough Derg, the Killarney lakes, Glengarriff and on the western tip of the Iveragh peninsula in Kerry, where they would have nested in historical times, perhaps even on the same islands used back in the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s wonderful to see these birds back where they belong, nesting and rearing chicks”.
An excellent Viewing & Information Point was again provided at Mountshannon thanks to funding from Clare County Council with visitors coming to see the local White-tailed Eagle pair. Eagles are also attracting many visitors to the Lakes of Killarney, the Iveragh and Beara peninsulas, Portumna, West Cork and other parts of the west coast where they are now established; enhancing the biodiversity and natural attraction of some of our most iconic landscapes.
The Irish White-tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction Programme is a long-term initiative to re-establish a population of this extinct species in the Republic of Ireland managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Releases of birds have taken place every year for five years (2007-2011) in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry. Dependent on maintaining survivorship within parameters derived from the reintroduced Scottish population this number should be sufficient to re-establish a viable self-sustaining breeding population in Ireland. As Sea Eagles breed at about five years old it was expected that the first Irish nesting attempts would be in 2012/2013. In 2012 the first nesting attempt occurred in Co. Clare, the first breeding in the wild in over 100 years. In 2013, the first wild-bred chicks fledged successfully from a nest in Co. Clare.
- The White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, and Red Kite Reintroduction Projects in the Republic of Ireland are managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
- White-tailed Eagle chicks were collected under licence in Norway and transported to Ireland for release. One hundred young White-tailed Eagles were released between 2007 and 2011 in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry. To date 32 birds have been recovered dead.
- In 2017 ten White-tailed Eagle pairs held territory in Ireland across four counties: Kerry (6 pairs), Galway (2), Clare (1) and Cork (1).
- Nine pairs laid eggs in Kerry (6), Cork (1), Clare (1) and Galway (1).
- 21 Irish-bred White-tailed Eagle chicks have fledged to date: 2 in 2013, 1 in 2014, 4 in 2015, 7 in 2016 and 2017.
- 119 Red Kites, imported from Wales, were released in County Wicklow from 2007 to 2011. 39 Welsh kites were released in Fingal in 2011.
- Red Kites can breed at two years of age, unlike both species of eagle, which tend to first breed at 4-6 years of age.
- The Department of Agriculture established the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) in 2013 and we wish to acknowledge all the effort that they and landowners have invested in minimising the impact of rodenticides on birds such as Red Kites, Barn Owls and Kestrels.
- A recent detailed study of the food remains at Red Kites nests in County Wicklow found that Rooks, Rabbit, Woodpigeon, Magpie and Brown Rat were the most commonly found species in prey remains, during the breeding season.
- 15 wild bred Golden Eagles have been reared in County Donegal since the first successful breeding in 2007.
- 63 Golden Eagles, collected under licence from wild nests in Scotland, were imported and released in Glenveagh National Park, between 2001-2012.
- The longest established pair of breeding Golden Eagles in Donegal failed to breed in 2017. It is suspected that the female died naturally – she was 17 years old. Research suggests that Golden Eagles, in the wild generally, live 16-20 years.
Points of Contact for the Media:
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Press and Information Office
Tel: 087 673 7338 / (01) 631 3803 / 3807 / 3838 / 3848 / 3909 (direct)
White-tailed Sea Eagle Contact
Dr. Allan Mee, Golden Eagle Trust,
Tel: 087 3117608
Red Kite Contact
Dr. Marc Ruddock
Mobile 087 3578590
Golden Eagle Contact and Golden Eagle Trust General Manager;
Lorcan O Toole
Mobile 087 1310177