08/05/13 – Minister Deenihan welcomes hatching of white-tailed eagle chicks for first time in over 100 years in Killarney and Clare

White-tailed eagles have successfully hatched chicks in Ireland for the first time in over 100 years. In the last few days a pair has been confirmed to have hatched chicks at a nest in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry, having laid eggs in late March.  A second pair has also successfully hatched chicks near Mountshannon, Co Clare.  This pair also made history in 2012 when they nested for the first time.

These are the first chicks of the high profile reintroduction programme which began in 2007 with the release of young Norwegian eagles in Killarney National Park as part of the white-tailed eagle reintroduction programme developed and funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in partnership with Golden Eagle Trust.

Minister Deenihan commented:

“This is a momentous occasion in that we are now witnessing the first white-tailed eagles born in the wild in Ireland in over 100 years. The birth of these chicks gives a great boost to the reintroduction project initiated by my Department in conjunction with the Golden Eagle Trust. The principal aim of this project is to re-establish a viable breeding population of  white-tailed eagles and today’s events are the big step towards achieving that goal.

“The adult eagles which originated in Norway, and which were released in Killarney National Park, will be the building blocks of a sustainable native population of white-tailed eagles for the future. Ultimately, the viability of the reintroduction programme will depend on these chicks going on to breed themselves. 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 landowners and communities the species should have a bright future in Ireland.”

Nesting began in late March with pairs laying eggs in nests in Clare and Killarney. The Mountshannon breeding pair, a five year old male and four year old female, was collected on the island of Frøya off the west coast of Norway. This pair laid eggs in 2012 but failed to hatch chicks. However by January 2013 had already built a new nest. The Killarney breeding pair, a six year old female and five year old male, were collected on islands in Flatanger and Hitra, Norway, in 2007 and 2008. The Killarney female spent part of the winter in early 2009 in the Scottish Highlands before returning to Kerry. All birds were released in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry, as part of the white-tailed eagle reintroduction programme. Several pairs have now established themselves in counties Kerry, Cork, Clare and Galway at coastal and inland lake sites.

Dr. Allan Mee, project manager for the Golden Eagle Trust said:

“We are delighted that white-tailed eagles are now nesting successfully in Clare and Kerry.  Last years’ nesting attempt by the Clare pair was a momentous event for the species recovery in Ireland. However, the species has now taken the next important step by producing the first chicks on the reintroduction programme.  We especially wish to thank local communities in Mountshannon and Whitegate, Co. Clare, and in the Killarney area in Kerry for their goodwill and continued support. The eagles have benefited from widespread support from communities and landowners, and their presence enhances rural economic values, especially wildlife tourism. Special thanks also go to our friends in Norway who put their faith in the reintroduction programme in Ireland by providing birds and also supporting us through some difficult times.

The news of nesting white-tailed eagles has generated much excitement locally in east Clare 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.  Dr. Allan Mee commented:

“We are very conscious of the risk of disturbing the birds especially at this stage of nesting.   I would stress that it is an offence under the Wildlife Acts to wilfully disturb white-tailed eagles at the nest. We would caution people not to approach the nest area but instead avail of the unique opportunity to watch from 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.”

In Norway, the Norwegian team cooperating with the Irish Reintroduction Programme was delighted to hear of the first successful hatching of chicks in Ireland, an important milestone on the road to a self-sustaining population of these magnificent birds. They have extended their congratulations on the development.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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