The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has recently released 24 white-tailed eagle chicks across various locations in Ireland. These releases, which took place around Lough Derg, the Shannon Estuary, and the west of Ireland, are part of a long-term reintroduction program managed by the NPWS. To date, a total of 171 white-tailed eagles have been released through this program. The small population of eagles in Ireland is currently breeding and some have even produced triplets.
White-tailed eagles were once native to Ireland but became extinct in the 19th century. The species typically settles on territories around the coast and large freshwater lakes for breeding purposes. Their diet consists of a wide variety of prey, including fish, waterbirds, and carrion. Since 2007, the NPWS has been collaborating with partners in Norway, as well as farmers and communities in Ireland, to reintroduce the white-tailed eagle. A comprehensive satellite tagging system has been implemented to monitor the birds as they disperse across the country.
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, participated in the release of four chicks at Killarney National Park. He expressed his enthusiasm for the growing population of white-tailed eagles in Ireland, stating, “This incredible endeavor is the result of 16 years’ work and collaboration, not just on the reintroduction program, but also on habitat restoration and engagement with landowners to ensure their ongoing protection. These apex predators play a vital role in our ecosystems, and the sight of them soaring in the thermals is a privilege that everyone who lives in or visits Ireland will now have the opportunity to enjoy.”
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, also took part in the release of chicks around Lough Derg. NPWS Director General, Niall Ó Donnchú, highlighted the importance of this program in protecting endangered species in Ireland and preventing their decline. He emphasized the need for a partnership approach and collaboration with the scientific community and international partners, as well as the involvement of expert staff and local communities.
Eamonn Meskell, Divisional Manager at NPWS Killarney National Park and head of the white-tailed eagle reintroduction program, shared some success stories from the project. He mentioned that the first Irish-bred female to breed in over a hundred years has successfully raised seven chicks in three years. Additionally, a nesting pair in Lough Derg has produced triplets, a rare occurrence even in the wilds of Norway. Meskell believes that these examples demonstrate how well-suited Ireland is for the white-tailed eagle in terms of habitat and food availability. He expressed excitement about observing this year’s chicks as they mature and potentially contribute to the growth of the population.
The reintroduction of white-tailed eagles in Ireland is a significant conservation effort that showcases the country’s commitment to protecting and preserving its natural heritage. With ongoing monitoring and collaboration, there is hope for the continued success of this program and the flourishing of the white-tailed eagle population in Ireland.