The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has recently launched a new osprey reintroduction programme in Ireland. The aim of this programme is to establish a viable population of ospreys in the wild. Over the next five years, the NPWS plans to reintroduce a total of 50 osprey chicks as part of this initiative. Ospreys are fish-eating birds of prey that thrive in habitats near rivers, lakes, or coastal areas where there is an abundant supply of fish. These birds are known for their monogamous nature, remaining faithful to both their mate and their nest.
Ospreys were believed to have become extinct as breeding birds in Ireland over 150 years ago. However, they have continued to visit the island as part of their migratory pattern. Recently, a breeding pair of ospreys and their chicks were discovered at a nesting site in Northern Ireland, marking the first natural breeding of ospreys in the country in over 200 years. This exciting development has paved the way for the reintroduction programme.
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, emphasized the importance of this programme in conserving and restoring nature. He stated that reintroduction programmes have proven successful in bolstering declining populations and providing valuable scientific insights. He also expressed his gratitude to the farmers and landowners who have been working closely with the NPWS team to bring back this magnificent bird to Irish skies.
Philip Buckley, divisional manager with NPWS southwest and head of the osprey reintroduction programme, highlighted the extensive research conducted in preparation for this initiative. Drawing on the experiences of other European countries that have successfully reintroduced ospreys, the NPWS identified suitable habitats that would attract the birds back each year. Buckley thanked the farming community in the south east for their cooperation and engagement in this project.
Similar to the white-tailed eagle reintroduction programme, the osprey chicks are sourced from Norway and cared for in a secure location until they are ready to be released. To ensure their safety and monitor their welfare, all of the chicks are fitted with satellite tags. This will also enable NPWS staff to track their migratory patterns in the future.
The reintroduction of ospreys to Ireland is a significant step towards preserving and enhancing the country’s biodiversity. With the support of the NPWS, farmers, and landowners, these majestic birds will once again become a familiar sight in Irish skies as they plunge and dive for fish and, eventually, breed. The success of this programme will not only contribute to the conservation of ospreys but also provide valuable insights into managing the return of other vulnerable species to Ireland’s shores.