Eagles wing their way into Kerry airport from Norway as part of reintroduction programme

Eagles wing their way into Kerry airport from Norway as part of reintroduction programme
Eagles were brought to Kerry airport at Farranfore Co Kerry today as part of a national programme to reintroduce the birds of prey to Ireland. Picture: Valerie O'Sullivan

The eagle has landed again: 10 white-tailed sea eagles flew quietly into Kerry from Norway shortly before lunchtime on Friday.

The new eagles are the latest in a, largely successful, reintroduction programme which began in the Killarney National Park in 2007 and which has seen eagles pair and nest in a number of locations countrywide.

The latest chicks are between seven and ten weeks and have been plucked from the wild in the Trondheim area of Norway.

They were collected under licence by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research

Tucked into individual cages they arrived safely after their journey of over four hours on a chartered flight.

Public meetings were held against the project 13 years ago and hill farmers, fearing their lambs would be stolen, protested at the airport in Farranfore. However, these distant relatives of the originals were met with only a welcoming party of wildlife officials and the eagle project manager.

They were being taken to two locations – Lough Derg in Co. Clare, where the very first sea eagles were born in 2013 and the Shannon estuary near Tarbert in North Kerry. The chicks will acclimatise for five to six weeks before being released, project manager Allan Mee said.

The new arrivals were brought in to "bolster” the existing population which has done fairly well, despite losses from poisonings and such, Mr Mee said.

“We will have six fledglings from five nests including Killarney this year,” he said.

That will bring to 32 the number of sea eagles born since the ambitious move to bring back the extinct species that was once part of Irish literature and folklore.

Eagles were brought to Kerry airport at Farranfore Co Kerry today as part of a national programme to reintroduce the birds of prey to Ireland. Picture: Domnick Walsh
Eagles were brought to Kerry airport at Farranfore Co Kerry today as part of a national programme to reintroduce the birds of prey to Ireland. Picture: Domnick Walsh

A scientific review of the reintroduction project indicated the small population is still vulnerable to mortality factors such as illegal poisoning and it was negatively impacted by Avian Influenza in 2018 and Storm Hannah in 2019. It was therefore decided to carry out this supplementary release to bolster the existing population, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said.

There are plans to boost the eagle numbers too in Killarney National Park where the fishing eagles are keenly appreciated by tourists along the Long Range River and Upper Lake particularly. Additional eagles will be brought into Farranfore from Norway over the next three years, Mr Mee said.

According to the NPWS, pairs of eagles are nesting now in counties Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Galway.

The sea eagle is Ireland’s largest bird, with a wingspan of up to 2.45m. Females are about 40 per cent larger than the males and can weigh up to 7kg.

The white-tailed sea eagle reintroduction project is a joint initiative between the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Golden Eagle Trust, in collaboration with the Norsk Institutt for Naturforskning and the Norwegian Ornithological Society.

In April, Glengarriff Nature Reserve in west Cork announced the arrival of a chick, the second born in County Cork in a decade and that chick’s activities have been caught and followed on webcam.

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