First chick reared by an Irish-bred white-tailed sea eagle male in over a century

An Irish-bred female has been nesting on the shores of Lough Derg since 2020, but Brendan is the first male to rear a chick
First chick reared by an Irish-bred white-tailed sea eagle male in over a century

Cuileann in the nest aged nearly nine weeks old. Picture: Alan McCarthy

Wildlife and conservation experts are celebrating after the first successful breeding by an Irish-bred white-tailed sea eagle male in over a century.

Brendan's eaglet, Cuileann, made his first flight to the mainland in West Cork over the weekend, prompting the official announcement of his birth.

It came just days after the Taoiseach released the first of 16 young eagles at three sites across Munster in the latest phase in this long-term initiative to re-establish a population of this iconic, and once extinct, species in Ireland.

The new eaglet’s father, Brendan, who fledged from a nest on the Iveragh Peninsula in 2017, paired with a female, Black P, who has been nesting in the Glengarriff area in West Cork for a number of years, and the pair built a nest in mid-March.

Clare Heardman, a conservation ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service for the Beara area, confirmed that the chick hatched around April 22 and fledged at 10 weeks old.

“We’ve been keeping it quiet to make sure the new pair of eagles in Glengarriff could nest in peace, but we’re thrilled to announce they have successfully fledged a chick this year,” she said.

An Irish-bred female has been nesting on the shores of Lough Derg since 2020, but Brendan is the first male to rear a chick. His parents are Norwegian and he was hatched from one of the first original white-tailed sea eagle pairs which were brought from Norway to Ireland as part of the re-introduction programme.

Ms Heardman said it is hugely significant that Brendan has now fledged a chick and is a great measure of the success of the re-introduction project. “This is, after all, the aim of re-introduction programmes,” she said.

In 2020, Black P raised a chick on her own after her mate disappeared when their chick was only two weeks old. The chick, named Sunniva, left Glengarriff in May 2021 and has been in Co. Mayo for the last several months.

Ms Heardman said by contrast, Brendan has been an attentive parent, regularly bringing fish from the harbour to feed his chick.

Cuileann has been fitted with a satellite tag by Dr Allan Mee and Ms Heardman said over the coming months she expects the eaglet to leave Glengarriff to make his own way in the world.

Cuileann with his colour ring. He is also fitted with a satellite tag so his movements can be followed. Picture: Clare Heardman, NPWS
Cuileann with his colour ring. He is also fitted with a satellite tag so his movements can be followed. Picture: Clare Heardman, NPWS

“He will hopefully meet up with some of the 16 chicks who came from Norway this year as part of the re-introduction programme, the first four of which were released last Friday,” she said.

She paid special tribute to all the ferrymen, boat and kayak tour operators for their help in minding the eagle, to the OPW staff in the area and to the tagging team Allan Mee, who ringed the eagle, Alan McCarthy, the tree climber, and NPWS staff Declan O'Donnell, Micheal McSweeney, Paddy Crowley and Jay Cornish.

It is understood that a group of Norwegian wildlife and conservation experts who are involved in the re-introduction programme are due to visit Glengarriff Nature Reserve on Tuesday in the hope of viewing the new parents and their eaglet.

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