Six white-tailed sea eagle chicks have flown from their nests in 2016, making it the most successful year yet for the reintroduced birds, project organisers have said.
Between 2007 and 2011, 100 birds were brought from Norway to the Killarney National Park. To date, 13 chicks have survived.
The aim is to get at least 10 chicks flying from their nests each year. In fact, some of the breeding “pairings” this year actually involved three eagles. On the Iveragh peninsula on the Ring of Kerry, a male and two females were involved in one site; and on the Beara, a female and two males got together.
Although the start has been slow, it is on par with that of the Isle of Mull in Scotland, where a similar introduction 40 years ago has hugely succeeded, Clare Heardman, conservation ranger on the eagle project in West Cork, said.
Three of the 2016 eagle chicks were hatched and reared in Co Kerry, one in the Killarney National Park, where the sea-eagle introduction project from Norway was centred. There are two Galway fledglings and one in Glengarriff.
More than 30 of the Norwegian eagles have died and the National Parks and Wildlife Service recently told An Bord Pleanála the re-introduction has cost over €1.5m and is at a critical stage.
Ms Heardman said long-term, the benefits were not just for conservation but were also economic, particularly for remote areas, like west Cork and the Ring of Kerry.
It is third time lucky for Glengarriff, where a pair of eagles there have finally fledged a chick — the first eagle chick in Cork in 120 years.
“It’s been a long wait, not just for County Cork but for the pair themselves,” said Ms Heardman, who also paid tribute to local ferrymen who “have taken the young eagle to heart”.
She said the Glengarriff fellow was slower leaving the nest than expected: “However, he’s been flying around the bay for six weeks now and looking strong. His parents are still feeding him but before the year is out, he will become independent and leave the area.”
It is hoped that Irish-born chicks will themselves start breeding in the coming years, said Allan Mee of the project partners, Golden Eagle Trust.
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