Rare birds in poison threat
UP to 50 birds of prey will be released into the wild this year but conservation projects remain under threat amid poisoning fears.
The European Commission is examining an official complaint lodged over Ireland's handling of the fatal poisoning of rare species.
Five white-tailed sea eagles, a golden eagle and two red kites have been found poisoned since the ambitious project to reintroduce the once-common birds was launched.
"This is danger time now, it is coming up to lambing time -- from February right up to May," Dr Allan Mee, the scientist in charge of the white-tailed eagle release project, warned.
Springtime has proved a perilous period -- with three birds found dead last year, according to Lorcan O'Toole of the Golden Eagle Trust, the charity managing the projects with the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The Government has failed to fulfil promises to strengthen legislation which would tackle the laying out of poisoned meat bait, the charity said.
"Reluctantly, we feel obliged to protect the public funding in these national restoration projects by making this formal European complaint," Mr O'Toole said.
The conservationists say a few simple changes, such as farmers using non-meat baits to target crows and foxes, could help alleviate the accidental poisonings.
Mr O'Toole said a petition signed by more than 11,000 people showed the vast majority of those in rural and farming sectors were "fed up with the lazy and reckless use of indiscriminate poison".
Since 2001, 55 young white-tailed eagles have been released in Killarney National Park, Co Kerry, 53 golden eagles were set free in Co Donegal and a further 83 red kites were released in Co Wicklow.
Last year no golden eagle fledglings were released in Co Donegal as the Scottish National Heritage -- which provides the birds -- had concerns over the poisoning.
However, it is hoped that up to 20 white-tailed eagles will be brought in from Norway this year, while up to 25 red kites from Wales, and as many as eight golden eagles from Scotland, will be released in Ireland.
"The continued release of birds in Ireland was contingent on the banning of poisons -- we promised the Scottish and the Norwegians that it was imminent. But it hasn't happened yet," Dr Mee said.
The trust has confirmed it is on target to re-establish the three species in the country. Prior to the project, white-tailed eagles were last recorded off the coasts of Co Kerry and Co Mayo in 1898 -- while golden eagles became extinct in the 1950s.
Meanwhile, nature lovers who feed stale bread to swans have been criticised by experts.
The Galway and Claddagh Swan Rescue Group has issued a large slice of advice to wildlife enthusiasts who feed white, stale and even mouldy bread to the famous flock of swans close to Galway city centre
The Claddagh Group is asking visitors to give the birds fibre-rich brown bread or cooked vegetables such as potatoes, carrots or cabbage instead.
Mouldy bread causes Pink Flamingo Syndrome, which causes the swans to lose their waterproofing, and white bread offers little nutrition.