THE future of white-tailed sea eagles in Ireland was dealt a double blow yesterday.
Hopes for breeding to begin, for the first time in more than a century in this country, were dashed after two eggs in a nest in Co Clare were abandoned by their parents.
Another white-tailed sea eagle -- one of 100 re-introduced in Ireland some years ago -- was found shot and poisoned in Co Mayo.
Last month it was confirmed that a pair of the young raptors had set up home near the shores of Lough Derg, just outside Mountshannon, Co Clare.
The birds had been guarding their eggs since April 9 -- with experts predicting the chicks would arrive within the next four weeks.
"The birds had been very attentive and they had been doing really well, but there was a change on Tuesday afternoon when they left the nest a couple of times," said Dr Allan Mee from the eagle reintroduction programme.
"The most likely case is that a chick hatched and it died or it fell down where the parents couldn't get to it," he added.
The four-year-old male and three-year-old female were brought over from Norway in 2008 and 2009 respectively. But all hope is not lost as Dr Mee says the eagles will remain in the vicinity of Mountshannon with another breeding attempt expected next spring.
Meanwhile, a young eagle, which had been released in Killarney National Park in 2010, was found dead on a small island on Lough Beltra, about eight miles from Castlebar.
A search was launched by the Golden Eagle Trust after the bird's electronic tag indicated it had not moved for many weeks. Post mortem results showed that not only had the eagle got high concentrations of poison in its system, but shotgun pellets were also discovered in its body.
It is understood the eagle had been dead for about 10 days when it was recovered. More than 20 of the 100 birds re-introduced to Kerry from Norway have been either shot or poisoned.
Post mortem results from another eagle found dead recently in the Donegal Blue Stack mountains showed that it had also been poisoned.