First tagging of chick born to white-tailed sea eagles

The first chick hatched in a project to bring white-tailed sea eagles back to Ireland was tagged yesterday and its movements can now be tracked through a satellite transmitter.

A nest containing a lone male chick was reached by a group led by project director Allan Mee in a difficult-to-access area of Killarney National Park. The mother eagle kept watch from a safe distance while the operation took place.

It is believed the egg was laid in late March and the 3.5kg chick is expected to be flying in the next three to four weeks. “It is on the light side for a male, but is in good condition. It will be interesting to trace the movements of this bird which will probably spend a bit of time around Killarney before moving on,’’ said Dr Mee.

The nest is located close to the western shore of Lough Léin, largest of the Lakes of Killarney. “It’s one of the most inaccessible nesting sites I’ve seen. It took us an hour and a half to advance 300 metres. We could hear the chick calling,’’ said Dr Mee.

A second pair of eagles has also successfully hatched near Mountshannon, Co Clare, and the two chicks there are expected to be fledged in the next few weeks.

In all, 10 pairs have formed at coastal and inland lake sites in counties Kerry, Cork, Clare and Galway. The hope is that several pairs could be hatching in the next couple of years. The chicks are key to achieving the aim of re-establishing a viable breeding population of white-tailed eagles in the wild in Ireland where they had not been seen for 100 years.

While the reintroduction project has had it setbacks — 27 of the 100 eagles released in Killarney have died, including 12 from poisoning — the hatching of three chicks this year is regarded as a major breakthrough.

The birds released in Killarney National Park, over five years, have been donated by wildlife authorities in Norway.

The programme was developed and funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in partnership with Golden Eagle Trust.

White-tailed eagles can live for 25 to 30 years and generally mate for life.


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