An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, along with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), has released a group of white-tailed eagle chicks into the wild at Tarbert, Co Kerry.

The native birds of prey were once extinct in Ireland and the latest introduction is part of a long-term initiative to re-establish a population here.

The chicks, released by An Taoiseach on Friday, are the first of 16 young eagles to be released at three sites across Munster, including Killarney National Park, Lough Derg and the lower Shannon estuary.

As they mature, these chicks will join and strengthen the small Irish breeding population that has become established since the reintroduction programme began in 2007.

Thirty-one young eagles from Norway have been released over the last two years. The additional 16 birds being released this year will bring the total to 47.

Norwegian origin

As in previous years, the young eagles were collected under licence in Norway by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and co-workers.

All the birds have been fitted with satellite tags in Ireland to enable their progress to be followed and their integration into the existing Irish breeding population monitored.

The 16 chicks arrived in Kerry Airport on Friday 1 July and have been preparing for their release since.

The birds, captured in Norway, arrived in Ireland on 1 July and are now ready for their release.

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “It is wonderful to see the development since the first introduction of chicks a number of years ago.

"These white-tailed eagles are magnificent birds, which will play a key role in a functioning ecosystem, after having been driven to extinction in the 19th century as a result of human actions.”

An Taoiseach thanked those involved in the project, including the NPWS, local farmers, local communities and conservation bodies.

Satellite data

The NPWS says that the satellite data captured on the eagles’ movements shows that two birds released in 2020 have paired up with older birds and have established territories in Ireland.

The satellite tags show the released young birds travelling the length and breadth of Ireland and further afield, with two of those released in 2021 currently thriving in Scotland.

Previously, in the first-phase reintroduction programme (2007-2011), 100 young white-tailed eagles were released in Killarney National Park. Birds from these releases dispersed throughout Ireland, with the first breeding occurring in 2012 on Lough Derg, Co Clare.

Since then, a small breeding population of eight to 10 pairs has established and has successfully fledged over 40 chicks, including seven chicks that fledged from the wild in 2022.

Despite these breeding successes, a scientific review of the reintroduction project indicated the small population is still vulnerable to mortality factors, such as illegal poisoning.

The breeding population was also negatively impacted by avian influenza in 2018 and 2021, Storm Hannah in 2019 and, indeed, adverse weather in other years during the nesting period.

Thus, this supplementary release is required to bolster the existing population and ensure its viability.

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