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Tue1st May 2018

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.                                                                                

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Additional Notes

Website: www.goldeneagletrust.org

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.
 

WHITE-TAILED EAGLES

  • 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.

RED KITES

  • 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.

GOLDEN EAGLES

  • 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)
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Website: www.chg.gov.ie Twitter: @Depth

White-tailed Sea Eagle Contact
Dr. Allan Mee, Golden Eagle Trust,
Tel: 087 3117608
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Red Kite Contact
Dr. Marc Ruddock
Mobile 087 3578590
Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Golden Eagle Contact and Golden Eagle Trust General Manager;
Lorcan O Toole
Mobile 087 1310177
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Key Irish raptors enjoy fair winds during the 2017 breeding season
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Fri6th Nov 2015

Breeding: -Thirteen pairs held territory in Ireland in 2015 (Fig. 1). At least nine pairs built nests and eight pairs laid eggs.  For the first year since breeding began in 2012 more than one pair successfully fledged chicks: five pairs hatched chicks across four counties with four of these pairs fledging a single chick each (Table 1).

Fig. 1 Growth in number of WTSE breeding and non-breeding pairs in RoI.

One WTSE pair (CE01) nested successfully again in 2015 for the third year in succession fledging a single chick from a nest near Mountshannon, Co. Clare. Other pairs in Kerry (KY03 Killarney, KY04 Beara) and Galway (G03) successfully hatched and fledged chicks for the first time. Indeed pair KY04 became the first Irish nesting pair to fledge a chick on its first nesting attempt.  A fifth pair (CO1) hatched two chicks but this breeding effort failed late on when the surviving chick was recovered dead in the nest. This chick was about 10 weeks old and potentially close to fledging. Examination of the chick on site and further post-mortem revealed a blockage in the crop and stomach apparently due to the chick swallowing feathers and bone. The nest itself contained abundant food items including several dogfish and thorn-backed ray. 

Table 1. Breeding parameters for WTSEs in Ireland (2012-2015)

 

Year

No

Pairs

No active

nests

Successful

pairs

No young

fledged

No fledged/

Nesting pair

No fledged/

Successful nest

2012

6

1

1

0

-

-

2013

10

3

1

2

0.66

2.0

2014

14

7

1

1

0.14

1.0

2015

13

8

4

4

0.50

1.0

Two new pairings were documented in 2015 (C02, KY11) although the Co. Cork site had been occupied by a single apparently unpaired bird, presumably the C02 male, since 2013. Interestingly the C02 female was previously paired and had nested in 2013 and 2014 in west Kerry but apparently abandoned the site after her mate was found dead in Sept 2014. A new ‘pairing’ (KY11) nested at the same site and indeed occupied the same nest in 2015 and observations suggest the resident female (red :) may have been driven out and the territory usurped by the KY11 females. Both these females had been largely resident in a nearby lough throughout 2014. The ‘pair’ male (blue 19) had spent the spring and summer of 2014 on the west Kerry coast and had been previously recorded with a 2011 female (black •1) feeding at salmon cages near an offshore island. A second trio (KY09) also nested for the second year in succession in south Kerry. Both trios laid eggs but neither failed to progress beyond the early stages of incubation. In the latter case the nesting attempt apparently failed following a “squabble” between the two males, presumably resulting in the birds breaking the egg/s. As discussed in the 2014 report, trios are rare but not unprecedented in small populations where there are few or no alternative mates or breeding opportunities. Neither ‘pairing’ has shown any definite signs of break-up and indeed the KY11 trio looks set to renest at the same site in 2016. Whether interaction between the KY09 males results in this trio breaking up in 2016 remains to be seen.

As well as the loss of the KY08 pairing, at least two other pairs have now broken up, in all cases likely due to adult mortality: G01 and KY07. Sadly the G01 female was on the point of egg-laying when she was recovered dead on the nest in early April 2015. The pair male, satellite tagged Star, subsequently abandoned the territory and dispersed widely around Ireland although returning to the nest area some months later. As of Oct 2015 Star appears to be resident on a freshwater lake in the north-west of Ireland. Another pair has not seen on site since early 2014. There was no breeding evidence for three other pairs (KY02, KY06, and G02) and it remains to be confirmed whether all these pairs are intact.    

The expansion of the breeding population to counties Cork and Galway as well as Kerry and Clare is encouraging with at least eight pairs laying eggs and four fledging chicks. However, as we have seen with the loss of adults of breeding age in 2015, losses of adult/sub-adult birds from these pairs can slow or even halt reestablishment of a viable breeding population through pair break-up and individuals remaining unpaired/non-breeding for several years due to lack of suitable mates and/or breeding opportunities. Thus, minimizing losses, especially of adult and sub-adult WTSEs will be critical to reestablishment as well as maintaining and increasing the current breeding population.

White-tailed Eagle chick, Kerry 2015
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Sun13th Sep 2015

Since fledging in mid July, Cealtra, the 2015 young female White-tailed Sea Eagle has been gradually finding her wings. As you probably know she is one of 4 sea eagle chicks fledged this year from nests in the wild in Clare, Kerry and Galway (sadly a 5th hatched at Glengarriff in west Cork didn’t make it). All 4 chicks are now flying about and gaining much needed experience of their environment while still, in most cases, being pretty much dependent on their parents for food. The last fledged chick (in south Kerry) has yet to leave the nest area, happily hanging out in the beautiful glen she hatched in while her parents return every now and then with food.

Cealtra, our only satellite tagged sea eagle chick from Mountshannon, Co. Clare, has been steadily exploring within a few kilometres of her nest on Lough Derg, initially travelling a few km east along the shore of the lake but recently flying some 5km to the Tipperary side and back. Apart from the nest island she has been roosting on some of the other islands nearby and even visited Inis Cealtra (Holy Island).....well she had to didn't she! Over the last couple of weeks she has put in fleeting appearances to the nest island in Mountshannon bay so today (13/9) the Bird Information & Viewing Point on the pier in Mountshannon was closed for the winter.....hard to believe it’s that time of year already....

Over the coming months look out for updates on Cealtra's progress as she explores more and more of Lough Derg, and wherever the fancy takes her. 

Cealtra explores Lough Derg
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Wed5th Aug 2015

The first White-tailed Sea Eagle nests in Co. Kerry in over 100 years have successfully fledged chicks in 2015! Two pairs, one in Killarney National Park and the other on the Beara peninsula near Kenmare, fledged single chicks at each nest.  This was the third attempt to successfully raise a chick by the Killarney pair while the Beara pair succeeded on their first attempt. Since fledging, the Killarney chick has been closely followed and fed by its parents around the Lower Lake where the trio have been seen by local boatmen and some excited tourists! It’s likely that the young eagle will spend the next few months around the Lakes of Killarney before wandering more widely across Ireland. 

Over the last month four young White-tailed Sea Eagle chicks fledged successfully from nests in counties Kerry, Clare and Galway bringing to seven the number of Sea Eagle chicks to have flown from nests in the wild in Ireland since 2013. Four of the seven chicks have come from one nest at Mountshannon, Co. Clare, on Lough Derg, by far our most successful pair to date. Happily a second pair took up residence on Lough Derg in 2013 and also nested successfully in 2015, raising their first chick. A fifth nest, at Glengarriff, Co. Cork, raised a single chick but sadly this chick died close to fledging.

Although its early days, each successful nesting and chick fledged brings the reintroduction project a little closer to its goal: a self-sustaining viable breeding population of White-tailed Sea eagles in Ireland. The expansion of the breeding population across four counties stretching from Glengarriff in West Cork to Connemara in West Galway (c200km north-south) is a positive sign. Over time the population is likely to expand further and/or increase in density in some of the best habitat as new pairs settle close to other pairs. This seems to be happening on Lough Derg and hopefully elsewhere on the Shannon and western lakes. Areas such as Lough Derg may become doubly important as source areas for Sea Eagles because they produce chicks most years and the pairs remain stable over time (few if any losses of breeding adults except to natural causes).

Importantly Lough Derg is hugely productive and most farming along the Clare shore is cattle, either dairy or dry stock, with none of the dangers associated with nesting in upland sheep country (ie. the continued use of illegal poisons by some landowners).  However it is critical we address the continuing losses of birds (3 adults lost in 2015 to date) to human related mortality. Otherwise young Sea Eagles dispersing away from safe breeding areas will continue to be vulnerable while pairs settling on new sites may be lost before they have a chance to nest successfully (as happened this year in Connemara).

Finally, a big thank you to all the local people who contributed so much to monitoring nests in 2015, including those from the farming and fishing community who really do value these magnificent birds and have seen first-hand that eagles and farming can co-exist in a benign way. Communities in Glengarriff, Killarney and Mountshannon have also seen the potential for the birds to enthral both locals and tourists alike and hopefully this will be the case for many years to come. As in 2014 the Bird Viewing & Information Point at Mountshannon, Co. Clare, is open every day on Mountshannon pier where Mountshannon Community Council and Clare Co. Co. have provided local people to man the facility and show visitors the nesting eagles. National Parks & Wildlife Service has also played an important role especially in Glengarriff and Beara....take a bow Clare Heardmansmiley

Thanks also to Damian Clarke (NPWS) for his tree climbing and eagle hugging expertise! And to Clare Hearman and Alan MacCarthy for picssmiley

Over the next few months look out for updates on our young eagles, especially Cealtra, the young satellite tagged female Sea Eagle who left her nest near Mountshannon in July! 

White-tailed Eagle chick, Beara July 2015
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Thu16th Jul 2015

On 1 April 2015 the mate of our satellite tagged White-tailea Eagle male Star was found dead on the nest in Connemara. Tragically she was on the point of egg-laying but was found poisoned by local conservation ranger Dermot Breen (see [previous blog). White-tailed Eagles usually pair for life and take some time to get over the loss of a long-term mate. Indeed we have seen how parents seem to “mourn” the loss of a chick by spending days close to the nest as a pair, often calling for long periods (excuse the anthropomorphism but it’s hard to describe some eagle behaviour without using human terminology!).

Well after spending the next week around the nest site in Connemara after the loss of his mate, Star headed off on a trek across Ireland, leaving on 6 Apr for the Longford-Westmeath border. Next day he headed south into Laois, west to the Tipp shore of Lough Derg, passing by the Mountshannon eagle nest site on 9/4 before roosting SW on Slieve Bernagh, Co. Clare. Next day he made it back to Connemara. ON 16/4 Star repeated the trip east to Roscommon before heading SE to Redcross, Wicklow nest day, west into Offaly on 18/4 and back to Connemara next day.

Not hanging about Star headed SE to N Tipp on 20/4, then into Kilkenny and on east to roost in the Wicklow Mts on 23/4, Blessington on 24/4, west into Offaly on 25/4, south to the Knockmeldown Mts on the Tipp-Waterford border on 26/4, returning to Connemara by the 30/4.  On 5/5 Star headed east again to the shore of lough Corrib, then south to the Silvermines in north Co. Limerick on 8/5, NE to Glenealy, Co Wicklow (again!) on 9/5,  NW to Blessington next day and back to Glenealy on 11/5. Star headed back west into Co. Galway on 13/4, and back to the Corrib next day.

Star remained on the Corrib for the next two weeks before heading easy again on 28/5 to Lough Ree, then east to Redcross, Co. Wicklow on 29/5, NW to Lough Owel, Westmeath, on 30/5, Derravaragh on 1/6, back to Lough Ree on 3/6, then NW to Lough Gara on the Sligo-Roscommon border on 9/6, before finally returning to his nest site in Connemara on 14/6. On 26/6 Star headed back NE to north Roscommon where he has been more or less resident over the last 2-3 weeks.

Will Star return to Connemara or perhaps the Corrib and find a new mate before the 2016 breeding season? Losing a mate can result in the loss of a breeding pair and the desertion of former breeding territories. It would be tragic to think that Star might fail to find a mate. Let’s hope he isn’t a loner for too long!

Star trips across Ireland
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