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A White-tailed eagle over Lough Derg. Photograph by Valerie O'Sullivan.

More White-tailed Eagles set for release on Lough Derg

Champion Chatter

LOUGH Derg is to be the location for the release of another clutch of White-tailed Eagle chicks over the coming weeks. 

As part of an ongoing project to boost the species at a number of Munster locations, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), have been collaborating closely, since 2020, with partner organisations in Norway, as well as local experts. Last week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin joined the NPWS for the release of a number of chicks at Tarbert, County Kerry, as part of the long-term wildlife reintroduction project. 

The 2022 phase of the landmark effort to restore a once-extinct bird to Irish skies, will see the release of a total of 16 young eagles across sites on Lough Derg in County Clare, the lower Shannon estuary and Killarney National Park. 

As in previous years, the young eagles were collected, under licence, in Norway by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and co-workers. All the birds have been fitted with satellite tags in Ireland to enable their progress to be followed and their integration into the existing Irish breeding population monitored.

As they mature, the chicks released this month will join and strengthen the small Irish breeding population that has become established since the reintroduction programme began in 2007. In total, 31 young eagles from Norway have been released over the last two years. The additional 16 birds being released this year, will bring the total to 47.

Already, the satellite data shows that two birds released in 2020 have paired up with older birds and have established territories in Ireland. The tracks from the satellite tags, show the young birds travelling the length and breadth of Ireland and even further afield: two of the young birds released in 2021 are currently in Scotland.

Previously, in the first-phase reintroduction programme (2007-2011), 100 young White-tailed Eagles were released in Killarney National Park. Birds from these releases dispersed throughout Ireland with the first breeding occurring in 2012 on Lough Derg in Clare. Since then, a small breeding population of eight to ten pair of eagles has established and has successfully fledged more than 40 chicks, including seven chicks that fledged from the wild in 2022.

Despite these breeding successes, a scientific review of the reintroduction project has indicated the small population is still vulnerable to mortality factors such as illegal poisoning. The breeding population was also negatively impacted by Avian Influenza in 2018 and 2021, Storm Hannah in 2019, and indeed, adverse weather in other years during the nesting period. Thus, this supplementary release is required to bolster the existing population and ensure its viability.

The Taoiseach paid tribute to the communities and farmers who have supported the project. 

I have followed this project for a number of years now and watching the eagles take to the skies for the first time is something that will last long in the memory,” said An Taoiseach. It is wonderful to see the development since the first introduction of chicks a number of years ago. These white-tailed eagles are magnificent birds which will play a key role in a functioning ecosystem, after having been driven to extinction in the 19th Century as a result of human actions. I want to pay tribute to all those involved in this incredible project, from the National Parks and Wildlife Service to local farmers, local communities and conservation bodies.”

On Tuesday last (August 9), the Norwegian Ambassador, along with a group of visiting Norwegians, who collected the eagles in Norway and made the re-introduction programme possible, visited Killarney National Park.

Fiona McGarry
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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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