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Friday 23 March 2018

All grown up – Irish-bred eagle chicks fly the nest

An adult white-tailed eagle on Lough Derg, Co Clare. Photo: Nigel Beers-Smith
An adult white-tailed eagle on Lough Derg, Co Clare. Photo: Nigel Beers-Smith
A recently fledged chick on Lough Derg, Co Clare. Photo: Nigel Beers-Smith

Valerie Loftus

THE first Irish-bred white-tailed eagle chicks to be hatched after the species was re-introduced to Ireland have been spotted leaving their nest.

A hundred eagle chicks were collected in Norway and released in Ireland between 2007 and 2011 in the hope of creating a thriving white-tailed eagle population here.

The two chicks, the first white-tailed eagles to be born in Ireland in 110 years, are the latest success story to come from three projects aiming to re-introduce birds of prey to Ireland.

The golden eagle was re-introduced in 2001 and to date 11 chicks have been hatched from wild nests in Donegal.

Red kites were re-introduced at the same time as the white-tailed eagles, but have a faster maturing and breeding process. To date, the re-introduced red kites have produced 30 young in nests in Co Wicklow.

The parents of the white-tailed eagle chicks are the only pair out of three to breed successfully this year, nesting on an island on Lough Derg, Co Clare.

A nesting pair in Killarney National Park hatched a chick which died when the nest collapsed, and another Kerry pair failed to hatch any chicks.

At 12 weeks of age, the chicks are already the same size as their parents, and can have a wingspan of up to 2.4 metres. If they safely reach maturity, they can live for up to 25 years.

"It took four or five years for the chicks we introduced to mature, so we're just seeing them pair up and breed now," said Dr Allan Mee of the Golden Eagle Trust.

"We had loads of interest during the period of sunny weather. Up to 250 people visited here per day, bringing their own telescopes and looking for the birds," he said.

Dr Mee said the trust will be pleased that the white-tailed eagle is thriving once 10 chicks are born every year.

Irish Independent

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