A significant milestone has been reached in the white-tailed eagle reintroduction programme, as twenty-one chicks were released into the wild in August 2021.
The white-tailed eagle (Irish Name: Iolar mara; Scientific name: Haliaeetus albicilla) is Irelands largest bird of prey with a wingspan of up to 2.4m. Females are larger than males, weighing around 6kg compared to an average male weighing about 4kg. This species can live over twenty years.
The reintroduction programme is made up of two phases. The first phase ran from 2007-2011. During the first phase 100 chicks were released into the wild and since then over 30 Irish-born chicks have fledged here. Some setbacks in 2018 (Avian Influenza) and 2019 (Storm Hannah) as well as persecution prompted the initiation of the projects second phase.
This Second Phase, managed by NPWS Regional Manager Eamonn Meskell with the advice of Dr. Allan Mee, will build on the success of the first phase of the Programme and expand the range of Irelands existing population, which has so far nested in sites in Kerry, Cork, Tipperary, Galway, and Clare. Phase II releases began in 2020 with the collection (under licence) of an additional 10 birds from nests in Norway and their release some 6-8 weeks later in SW Ireland: at Lough Derg, Co. Tipperary and the Shannon Estuary.
The most recent milestone in the reintroduction project consisted of the release of twenty-one Norwegian-born Eagle chicks into the wild across four Munster sites in August 2021 (the Shannon Estuary, Lough Derg, Waterford and in Killarney National Park). All of the birds are wing-tagged, and satellite tagged. The tagging allows for the close monitoring of their dispersal around Ireland and their survival rates.
As well as bringing biodiversity and ecosystem benefits, restoring this flagship species can deliver economic benefits and is a significant step in restoring the country’s natural heritage. Under the first phase of the reintroduction programme, the re-establishment of breeding white-tailed eagles at sites like Glengarriff, Lough Derg and Killarney National Park has proven hugely popular with local residents and visitors.