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23 white-tailed eagles arrive in Kerry Airport as part of wildlife reintroduction project

The chicks were collected this June from nests throughout the Trondheim area of West-Central Norway.

Eamonn Meskall, Regional Manager at the National Parks and Wildlife Service, showing Peter Jones one of the 23 White-tailed eagle chicks.
Eamonn Meskall, Regional Manager at the National Parks and Wildlife Service, showing Peter Jones one of the 23 White-tailed eagle chicks.
Image: Valerie O'Sullivan

TWENTY-THREE WHITE-TAILED eagle chicks have arrived in Kerry Airport, as part of a long-term wildlife reintroduction project that’s being led by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). 

The 2021 phase of this landmark collaboration to restore a native and once-extinct bird to Irish skies will see the release this year of the young eagles at four sites across Munster, including Killarney National Park, along the River Shannon, the lower Shannon estuary, and a site in Waterford.

The chicks were collected this June from nests throughout the Trondheim area of West-Central Norway by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and flown to Kerry Airport. 

They will be held for six to eight weeks at purpose-built flight cages at four sites in Munster, where they will be cared for and monitored by NPWS, before being released into the wild in early-mid August.

As they mature, these chicks will join and strengthen the small Irish breeding population that has become established since the reintroduction programme began in 2007.

White Tailed Eagles Munster3 Members of the National Parks and Wildlife Services and Department of Agriculture checking the 23 White-tailed eagle chicks. Source: Valerie O'Sullivan

“This is an incredibly exciting and technically complex project whose success depends on the collaboration of many groups, including our NPWS teams, local farmers, conservationists and communities, the Norwegian authorities and many other partners in Norway,” Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said.

“Their collective efforts over many years have brought us to this point. I’d like to pay tribute to all involved and acknowledge their commitment to making this project a success, now and in the years to come.”

Last year, 10 eagles were released along the River Shannon. Nine of those 10 birds survived their first year, and currently they are dispersed at a number of locations in Ireland, and one is in Scotland.

Previously, 100 young white-tailed eagles were released in Killarney National Park between 2007 and 2011.

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Birds from these releases subsequently dispersed widely throughout Ireland with first breeding in 2012 on Lough Derg, Co. Clare.

Since then a small breeding population of eight to 10 pairs have successfully fledged over 30 chicks, with an additional five chicks likely to fledge into the wild in Munster in the next few weeks.

This year, one nesting pair on Lough Derg has produced three chicks, which are due to fledge shortly. This is uncommon, even in the very extensive wild populations in Norway. 

White-tailed eagles, once a striking element of Ireland’s natural landscape, were driven to extinction on the island in the 19th Century as a result of human persecution, a development which the Programme seeks to reverse.

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