INTO THE WILD: White-tailed Eagles arrived into Kerry Airport from Norway. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

 

A group of young White-tailed Eagles arrived in Kerry Airport last week and have since been released into the wilds of Killarney National Park as part of a long-term project to reintroduce species that were extinct in Ireland.

The White-tailed Eagles were released in Munster by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) as part of a Phase Two project to bolster the small existing breeding population in Ireland.

The mission involved moving the young eagles – who had been monitored for a number of months – from Norway. They were taken to a waiting chartered flight at Trondheim Airport, for transport to Kerry Airport on a journey of four hours 20 minutes.

“This latest operation, under Phase Two of the conservation project, was an incredible team effort between the wildlife personnel both here and in Norway,” said outgoing Minister of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan, TD in her last job in the role.

“Thanks to their logistical work, bringing the latest influx of White-tailed Eagles to these shores, the future is positive for the eagle, which had been extinct in Ireland for over a century. The latest conservation intervention cements the work already done in bringing these graceful birds back to our skies, and I would like to express my appreciation for all involved in lending this hand to nature.”

Previously, one hundred young White-tailed Eagles were released in Killarney National Park between 2007 and 2011. Birds from these releases subsequently dispersed widely throughout Ireland with first breeding in 2012 on Lough Derg, County Clare. Since then a small breeding population of eight to 10 pairs have successfully fledged 26 chicks with an additional six chicks likely to fledged into the wild in Munster in the next few weeks.

Some Irish-bred eagles are now reaching maturity and starting to breed in the wild. However, a scientific review of the reintroduction project indicated the small population is still vulnerable to mortality factors such as illegal poisoning and the breeding population was negatively impacted by Avian Influenza in 2018 and storm Hannah in 2019. Thus it was decided to carry out this supplementary release to bolster the existing population.

Farmers helped monitor birds and nests at some sites. The Phase Two release hopes to build on this relationship into the future to ensure that farming and eagles continue to coexist to their mutual benefit.