Minister Malcolm Noonan welcomes the release into the wild of Norwegian White-Tailed Eagle chicks as population reaches milestone

Minister Malcolm Noonan was delighted to be present today when White-tailed Eagles were once again released in Munster by the National Parks and Wildlife Service as part of a Phase II project to bolster the small existing breeding population in Ireland. Ten young White-tailed Eagles from Norway are to be released in Munster in 2020 as part of the project to augment the small newly re-established breeding population in the Republic of Ireland.

Last Sunday four young eagles were released on Lough Derg, Co. Tipperary with another two birds to be released at the same site later in the month. Meanwhile four young eagles are to be released shortly at a site on the Shannon estuary.

Speaking at the release, Minister Noonan said “While 2020 has been a difficult year for the human population, the year has seen some landmark developments for Ireland’s small population of the once extinct White-tailed Sea Eagle. These are our largest birds of prey and one of the most impressive birds in the world. “

The Minister continued “In addition to ten new chicks arriving from Norway, it is marvellous that our small indigenous breeding population has reached a new milestone in 2020 with the first Irish bred White-tailed Eagle successfully fledging her own young. The two chicks hatched at a nest on Lough Derg, Co Tipperary to a female who was herself was reared at a nest also on Lough Derg, near Mountshannon, Co. Clare in 2015.”

“Against the backdrop of concerns for species extinctions globally this is a remarkable example of hands on conservation in action and  these events mark important milestones for this long-term conservation project to restore this iconic species to Ireland. Once driven to extinction through human persecution, I am delighted to see these, majestic birds returning to our skylines and becoming an established part of the Irish landscape after an absence of some 100 years!  “

The release project is managed by Eamonn Meskell of the NPWS with Dr Allan Mee. An important aspect of any releases and where birds are nesting in the wild is cooperation with the farming communities in the release areas and where birds settle to breed.

“We are thrilled that the first home grown Irish bred white-tailed eagle, a female bred in Clare in 2015, has produced her own chicks and reared them successfully with a Norwegian male” said Dr. Allan Mee. “This is a hugely important milestone for the project and, we hope, the first of many of a new generation of Irish bred chicks to Irish parents. In addition, the release of young eagles on Lough Derg and the Shannon Estuary will be critical in helping bolster the existing population and form the basis of a viable self-sustaining Irish population. The signs are good that we can achieve this with 10 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, Connemara, 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”.

Minister Noonan concluded, “I acknowledge the relationships established in both the release and breeding areas with the farming community and I thank the landowners and farmers who have facilitated this new re-introduction, and helped monitor birds and nests at some sites. The Phase II release hopes to build on these relationships into the future to ensure that farming and eagles continue to coexist to their mutual benefit.  I also have to thank the Norwegian authorities and colleagues there who have enabled the re-introduction of this species into this country. I am grateful for the continued commitment shown by the staff of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and for the co-operation of the Golden Eagle Trust. This is a wonderful example of how a strong working partnership between our National Parks and Wildlife Service, local community involvement and our international partners can help the reversal of biodiversity loss.

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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