New mouth to feed for white-tailed eagles
THEY made history last year as the first couple to raise a white-tailed eagle chick to fly from a nest in Ireland for over a century and now they're caring for their latest arrival.
The nesting pair in Mountshannon, Co Clare, are among seven couples that have hatched chicks so far this year.
A total of 14 pairs of eagles are holding territories across four counties with at least half nesting and laying eggs.
But most of these will die, according to experts, usually due to cold weather and the inexperience of the parents.
Another chick had hatched in Glengarriff, Co Cork – the first to hatch this year – but it died about two weeks later, most likely due to a combination of poor weather and inexperience.
But hopes are high that the Mountshannon pair, and others around the country, will successfully raise chicks that will form the basis of a viable white-tailed eagle population in Ireland.
As part of a reintroduction programme, 100 young Norwegian eagles were released in Killarney National Park between 2007 and 2011.
Project manager of the Golden Eagle Trust, Dr Allan Mee, said experience was telling them that most nesting pairs will fail in their first attempt.
"It was very cold and wet and some of them just can't handle that, especially if the parents leave the eggs for too long and they get cold," he said.
"In 2013 we had our first chicks reared in the wild in Clare but this year we are excited to see that pairs are nesting as far away as Connemara, although Kerry remains the stronghold for the species."
Dr Mee added that the increase in the number of pairs nesting was encouraging.
Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan said the development was promising especially after the "dark day" earlier this year when of one of two white-tailed eagles born here last year was shot dead.
"The breeding pair at Mountshannon gives the public an opportunity to see one of the most spectacular birds in this country at close quarters. They have proven to be a benefit to the local economy."