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White-tailed sea eagles released into the wild in Munster

Four birds were released at Lough Derg, with more to follow at the Shannon estuary.

Image: Shutterstock/Sergey Uryadnikov

FOUR WHITE-TAILED sea eagles were released into the wild in Munster yesterday, with another six to follow later in the month.

The eagles were released by the National Parks and Wildlife Service as part of a project to increase their breeding population in Ireland, which already exists in small numbers.

The four birds were released yesterday at Lough Derg in Co Tipperary.

Two more are due to be released at the same site later this month, while four will be released near the Shannon estuary.

The young eagles were flown in from Norway in June, where they had been collected from nests in the wild.

They have been held for six to eight weeks in purpose-built flight cages at Lough Derg and the Shannon Estuary.

Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said that “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,” Noonan said.

Project manager at the Golden Eagle Trust Dr Allan Mee said that the release of the bids would “be critical in helping bolster the existing population and form the basis of a viable self-sustaining Irish population”.

Dr Mee said that Ireland could be home to 10 or more breeding pairs over the next few years.

Between 2007 and 2011, 100 young white-tailed sea eagles were released in Killarney National Park in Co Kerry.

The birds were later dispersed throughout Ireland, with breeding first taking place in 2012 on Lough Derg in Co Clare.

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Thirty-one chicks have been fledged from a small breeding population of 8-10 pairs since their initial introduction.

A female bred in Clare in 2015 has now produced chicks of her own, marking the first Irish-bred white-tailed sea eagle.

“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,” Noonan said.

“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,” he said.

The release of the birds came under the Irish White-Tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction Programme, which is a long-term initiative to reestablish the species’ population in the Republic of Ireland.

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