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Golden Eagle Species Status

The Golden Eagle is a widespread species across the Northern Hemisphere. Its principal breeding distribution spans the latitudes from around 70°N to 20°N. In North America, it is found in Canada, Alaska, the western states in the USA and northern Mexico. In Europe it has been lost from many parts of North Western Europe, but is still found in Scandinavia, Scotland, Spain and southeastern Europe. The range continues east across Russia as far as the Bering Straits, through the Middle East, across Asia into parts of India, China and Japan. A few isolated populations are found in North Africa (Ferguson Lees et al 2001).

The Golden Eagle became extinct in Ireland about 1910-1912, having been relatively common and widespread in the early 19th century (Hutchinson 1989 and DArcy 1999). Ussher and Warren wrote in 1900 that, "within the last fifty years gamekeepers and shepherds have so successfully employed gun, trap and poison, while the eggs and young have been so systematically taken, that this noble species has been nearly swept off the land". (Whilde 1993).

A single pair bred on Fair Head, County Antrim, from 1953 to 1960 but failed to re-establish a breeding population. Scottish Ornithologists noticed an increase in the Southwest of Scotland eagle population and elsewhere after the war years, thought to be due to less persecution from gamekeepers and sheppards during the Second World War (Brown 1976). The expansion onto Fair Head may have also had its origins in this increase.

As part of an ongoing programme to reintroduce Golden Eagles to the northwest of Ireland, 50 young Golden Eagles chicks, collected from Scotland, have been released in Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal between 2001-2007. As a result of this project, in 2004, a pair established a territory, in 2005 a pair bred and laid a single egg that failed to hatch, in 2006 two pairs laid eggs that failed to hatch and then in 2007 two pairs laid two eggs and one clutch hatched two chicks. One chick fledged in August 2007, the first chick to be reared in Glenveagh in over 95 years. There were five occupied territories and two breeding attempts in 2007, all in County Donegal.