White-tailed eagles are large species of sea eagle and are one of our largest living birds of prey. They are a member of the Accipitridae family along with other raptors such as hawks, Kites and harriers. The species is also closely related to the bald eagle and share similar ecological niches.
Adult white-tailed eagles have brown body plumage, a yellow bill with a pale head and neck. They also have a white, wedged shaped tail. Individuals tend to live most of the year near large bodies of open water, in lowland areas. However, the species can also be found living at elevations up to 2,300 provided there is access to water. Other important ecological requirements for the species include secluded old growth tree habitats, abundant food supply and ample sea cliffs for nesting.
The birds spend most of their days perched on trees or crags and soaring on occasion. Pairs of eagles regularly roost together near their nest, on crags, trees or crevices. The eagles are opportunistic hunters and so, tend to have a varied diet. Their prey includes fish, birds, mammal and carrion. While they have the capability to attack large and difficult to capture prey items, they prefer to hunt more vulnerable prey. Many individuals will live largely as scavengers.
Although the species is found widely across temperate Eurasia, as a nesting species, they are scare and patchily distributed. This patchy distribution is mainly due to negative impacts from Anthropogenic activities such as habitat alterations, destruction of wetlands, inadvertent poisonings and nest failures due to use of manmade chemical pesticides. As a result of such threats, the species is considered endangered or extinct in several countries.
In Ireland, the species was extinct for over a century. However, the eagles were reintroduced into the country from 2007 to 2011 by a successful wildlife programme set up by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with the Golden Eagle Trust, working in collaboration with the Norsk Institutt for Naturforskning and the Norwegian Ornithological Society. The project is managed by Dr Allan Mee and has led to the reintroduction of 100 eagle chicks to Ireland from Norway. Since 2013, these eagles have managed to create their very own Irish born generation of chicks, slowly becoming established breeders in counties Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Galway.
Recently, great news regarding the conservation of the species has come from County Cork. Rangers working on the Glengarriff Nature Reserve announced that a new white-tailed sea eagle chick was born. The parents are two of the 100 eagles reintroduced into the country. The unnamed chick and its parents can be watched at every moment of the day through a dedicated livestreaming webcam. This can be found on the Glengarriff Nature Reserve website. The webcam catches some amazing moments of the birds and shows interesting insights into their daily lives. The camera has caught the initial rituals of the both parents before the chick was born and now, one can watch as these huge, powerful birds delicately feed and care for the baby chick. The camera has become an extremely important asset to the rangers, allowing them to consistently monitor the birds during the Covid-19 restrictions.
There has been eagles nesting in the reserve since 2013. In 2016, a chick named “Eddie” was the first chick to fledge in the county. Such success has not been recorded since due to bad timing and weather Therefore, it’s hoped by all that the newly hatched chick will stay healthy and manage to successfully fledge.