White-tailed Eagles have successfully hatched chicks across four counties in Ireland. Eight pairs of White-tailed Eagles have nested and laid eggs with five nests successfully hatching chicks in counties Clare, Cork, Galway and Kerry. In the last few weeks’ chicks hatched in nests on Lough Derg at Mountshannon, Co. Clare, at Glengarriff in West Cork, and in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry. Pairs also successfully hatched chicks at a nest in Co. Galway for the first time and at another site in Kerry. Three other pairs nesting in Kerry failed to hatch successfully. Interestingly two of these “pairs” were made up of trios: two males and a single female at one site and two females and a male at another, both in Kerry!
The first nest to hatch young in 2015 was at Glengarriff, Co. Cork, in mid-April with fledging (its first flight) expected in early July (11-12 weeks old). Later in April a pair was confirmed to have hatched chicks at their usual nest site on Lough Derg, near Mountshannon, Co Clare. This pair created history in 2013 when they reared the first chicks to fly from a nest in Ireland in over 100 years. The pair also reared the only chick to successfully fledge from a nest in 2014. The pair resident on the Lakes of Killarney in Killarney National Park hatched a chick in early May. Encouragingly two other pairs, one in Galway and another in Kerry both hatched chicks for the first time.
Hopes are high that the five successful pairs will successfully raise chicks that will go on to form the basis of a viable population in Ireland. This would potentially be the first White-tailed Eagle chicks to fledge successfully in Kerry, Cork and Galway, Clare already having been successful in 2013 and 2014. These are the latest chicks of the high profile reintroduction programme which began in 2007 with the release of 100 young Norwegian eagles in Killarney National Park as part of the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction Programme managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service.
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys commented “It is great news that white tailed eagle chicks have been successfully hatched across four counties. This is a considerable boost for the reintroduction programme and it is a very positive sign for the recovery of the species here. The white tailed eagle is an iconic bird, which is very popular in local communities and of course attracts interest from visitors. I would like to commend the ongoing work of those involved in the reintroduction programme and acknowledge the strong support from local communities and landowners who are helping to make it a success.”
“We are delighted that White-tailed Eagles are now nesting and hatching chicks successfully for the first time across four counties”, said Dr. Allan Mee, project manager for the Golden Eagle Trust. “In 2013 we had our first chicks reared in the wild in Clare but this year we are excited to see that pairs are nesting as far away as Galway, although Kerry remains the stronghold for the species. The increase in the number of successful pairs is encouraging and bodes well for the species recovery in Ireland. Ultimately the viability of the reintroduced programme depends on these chicks going on to breed themselves in Ireland. Each step brings us closer to that goal. Many people have helped us reach this goal over the years. We especially wish to thank local communities in Mountshannon and Whitegate, Co. Clare, Glengarriff, Co. Cork, in Killarney and elsewhere in Kerry, and in Galway for their goodwill and continued support. The eagles have benefitted from the support of local communities and landowners, and their presence has the potential to enhance the rural economies of these areas, especially through wildlife tourism.”
News of the hatching has been greeted with excitement locally in East Clare. John Kavanagh, Chairman of Mountshannon Community Council said “We are delighted that this pair of eagles has made its home here near Mountshannon for the fourth year in a row. These birds made history in 2013 by being the first to raise chicks successfully in Ireland in some 100 years. Everything has gone to plan for the pair again this year having hatched a single chick. The eagles have become a focal point for the community and have attracted visitors from all over Ireland and beyond. Thanks to the vital support of Clare County Council who have again provided the Bird Information & Viewing Point on the pier we are again able to welcome eagle lovers to Mountshannon. Last year saw almost 10,000 people visit the site to see the nesting pair between July and September so it’s clear people are hearing about the birds and coming to Mountshannon to see them. We would ask everyone to respect all our wildlife and give these magnificent birds a chance to nest and their young to survive to breed in the future.”
Vera O’Rourke spoke on behalf of the Mountshannon Eagle Group “We are really pleased that the eagle pair “Caimin and Saoirse” has successfully hatched again this year on an Island close to Mountshannon for the third year in a row. It’s great news for the whole of the Lough Derg area. We thank everyone for their cooperation in helping to protect these birds and their nesting area. We ask that people keep their distance from the nesting Island to give these magnificent birds of prey every chance to rare their chicks. Remember you don’t have to go out on the lake to view the eagles. A specially constructed Bird Viewing and Information Point (BVIP) supplied by the Clare County Council is opened at Mountshannon Harbour from where people can view the eagles through telescopes that are in place within the unit. The BVIP is opened and run daily by Information Assistants from whom visitors will get up to the minute information on the activities of the Eagles”.
The news of hatching eagles has also been greeted with delight in West Cork. Local Conservation Ranger Clare Heardman has been watching the pair’s progress closely since nesting began. “It has been an incredible experience watching the eagles in Glengarriff working towards what will hopefully be their first breeding success, having lost a chick at two weeks old in 2014 due to bad weather. After sitting tight on the eggs for over a month, the parents again faced the challenge of keep the chick warm, dry and fed as the weather turned particularly bad at the beginning of May. However, they demonstrated their greater level of experience as parents and the chick survived the storm. The nestling is looking big and strong now at over six weeks of age, and it is very exciting to think that 2015 could be the first year in over a century that a Cork-born white tailed eagle is seen flying again”. Local NPWS staff would like to commend the role of local people, in particular the ferry operators in Glengarriff Harbour, for helping ensure the eagles were not disturbed by people out on the water. We would urge anyone interested in seeing the eagles to observe them from a distance.
The news of nesting White-tailed Eagles has generated alot of excitement locally in East Clare, West Cork, as well as Galway and Kerry and is likely to attract the attention of people keen to see the birds. However disturbance, particularly during the early stages of nesting when the birds are on eggs or have small chicks, would be detrimental to the pair’s success. “We are very conscious of the risk of disturbing the birds especially at this stage of nesting”Dr. Mee added. Please note that it is an offence under the Wildlife Act (1976) to willfully disturb White-tailed Eagles at the nest. Disturbance could result in the birds leaving the small chicks unguarded for a period during which they could be predated or be chilled or the birds could desert the site. We would caution people not to approach the nest area but instead avail of the unique opportunity to watch from a nesting pair of sea eagles from nearby Mountshannon pier. Information on the birds, their ecology and conservation will be available. We would like to acknowledge the goodwill and assistance of local people in the Mountshannon area, Mountshannon Community Council, local angling, gun clubs and Clare County Council before and during the nesting period“.
Whatever the outcome of these nesting attempts, the signs are good for future breeding in the area and at a number of other sites across Ireland in the near future. White-tailed Eagles can live for 25-30 years and generally mate for life with adult pairs remaining within their home range throughout the year. First time breeders, especially young birds, often fail at their first attempt. However, with the goodwill and support of local communities the species should have a bright future in Ireland.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
· 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 Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in the Republic of Ireland.
· For more information on the White-tailed Eagle reintroduction project and to follow project updates visit www.goldeneagletrust.org and www.npws.ie
· 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 29 birds have been recovered dead, mainly due to illegal poisoning.
Over the past six years White-tailed Sea Eagles have dispersed throughout Ireland and beyond. Many eagles have been reported from Northern Ireland and at least six birds have travelled to Scotland. One male that spend 8 months away from Kerry in 2009 travelled over 2,000 kilometres to the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland before returning to Kerry. In early 2011 this male was found paired with a female in south Kerry. Immature White-tailed Sea Eagles may disperse over a wide area but once birds begin to mature and pair up at 4-5 years old they establish territories along the coast and inland lakes where they are resident throughout their lifetime.
The breeding population of White-tailed Eagles has increased from one pair in 2011 to 14 territorial pairs in 2014.
The first nesting in the wild was near Mountshannon, Co. Clare in 2012 and the first chicks also fledged (flew) from a nest near Mountshannon in 2013.
The young eagle (named Aoibheall) fledged from the nest in Mountshannon in July 2014 spent its first winter on Lough Derg and later on the Little Brosna callows in south Offaly before moving up the Shannon to Lough Ree.
Historically, the White-tailed Sea Eagle was once a respected and conspicuous part of the Irish landscape, before it was driven to extinction in the early 20th century by human persecution.
Illegal poisoning remains the greatest threat to the eagle’s recovery. A six-year old breeding female was found poisoned on the nest near Roundstone, Co. Galway, in April 2015. Her mate has since deserted the nest site.
Nesting White-tailed Eagles feed predominantly on fish and to a lesser extent on birds and small mammals.
Some 10,000 people visited Mountshannon, Co. Clare, in summer 2014 to view the breeding White-tailed Eagles. A visitor survey found that White-tailed Eagles were the primary reason for visiting Mountshannon for 43% of those surveyed. Most (55%) stayed in the local area on visits. Most (89%) also said they would come back to see the birds in future.
1. Dr. Allan Mee,
Project Manager, Irish White-tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction Programme
Golden Eagle Trust