A white-tailed sea eagle in Tarbert, Co Kerry, has been confirmed positive for bird flu.

This follows announcements that wild birds in Donegal and Offaly have also been confirmed positive for H5N1, including both mute swans and whooper swans and wild geese.

It is the same highly pathogenic strain that was detected last week in a peregrine falcon in Galway.

The white-tailed sea eagle was submitted to the Veterinary Laboratory in Limerick as part of the Department’s wild bird avian influenza (AI) surveillance programme.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said: “It is very unfortunate that this case has been detected in such a rare bird, but I would like to commend the work of my Department’s wild bird AI surveillance programme.


“It is important that we remain vigilant, and I would also urge that flock owners should also be watchful. We should do everything that we can to ensure that potentially infected wild birds do not have contact with domestic flocks.”

Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan added: “These confirmations of avian influenza are very concerning. There is the immediate issue of the direct impacts on birds generally, and also, of course, there may be issues arising that impact on birds of conservation concern, including those being re-introduced to the wild under projects such as the flagship White-Tailed Sea Eagle Re-Introduction Project.

“The NPWS will continue to support Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine colleagues in monitoring and addressing this evolving situation. In the meantime, I would ask members of the public not to handle any dead birds. Instead, they should contact local Department of Agriculture or NPWS offices.”

Low risk to humans

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has confirmed that although the H5N1 subtype can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, no human infections with this virus have been reported worldwide and therefore consider the risk to humans to be very low.

It said properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

These additional findings of H5N1 in wild birds highlight the risk of introduction of avian influenza to the poultry sector.

The Department has said that flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks and report any disease suspicion to their nearest Department Veterinary Office.