‘Once driven to extinction through human persecution’ – eagles released into the wild

Last month, AgriLand reported that white-tailed eagles, which were once the foes of many farmers, are now slowly becoming their friends. This friendship will be put to the test with a number of birds released into the wild in Munster recently.

As part of the Irish White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction project, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) released four young eagles on Lough Derg, Co. Tipperary, with another two birds to be released at the same site later in the month.

Meanwhile, four young eagles are set to be released shortly on the Shannon Estuary in the Tarbert/Glin area of counties Limerick and Kerry.

Minister of State with responsibility for heritage and electoral reform Malcolm Noonan said that while 2020 has been a difficult year for the human population, the year has seen some “landmark developments for Ireland’s small population of the once extinct white-tailed sea eagle”.

He added: “Once driven to extinction through human persecution, I am delighted to see these birds returning to our skylines.”

‘Our relationship is constantly improving’

The release project is managed by Eamonn Meskell of the NPWS and Dr. Allan Mee of the Golden Eagle Trust.

Dr. Mee said that an important aspect of the project is cooperation with the farming communities in the areas.

In 2007, when the first white-tailed eagles arrived as part of the initial phase of this project, farmers protested at Kerry Airport.

However, the situation has much improved. Dr. Mee told AgriLand: “It is a mark of how things have progressed since the project began. It didn’t happen overnight, but our relationship with farmers is constantly improving.

When the birds are released, they have a tracking device so when we see them move location, we get in touch with farmers in that area to let them know.

“There are farmers who now help to monitor birds and nests at some sites.”

Initial concerns raised by farmers related to threats posed by these birds to livestock. Dr. Mee said he is very cautious of where they release the eagles, as they have been poisoned in the past.

“We tend to release the eagles in coastal and low-land areas where beef and dairy farming takes place, as in the first few years we lost eagles to poisoning in areas where hill sheep are kept.

“Things are very different now. When attitudes change, everything else changes too.”