Record number of white-tailed eagles successfully fledged across the country

A total of six white-tailed eagle chicks successfully fledged in three different counties in 2016, making this the most successful year to date in the reintroduction programme, according to the Golden Eagle Trust.

Eight pairs of white-tailed eagles attempted to breed and successfully laid eggs in 2016 and five pairs managed to rear chicks successfully, it said.

The reintroduction programme, which began in 2007 with the release of 100 young Norwegian eagles in Killarney National Park in Co. Kerry, has shown real signs of progress over recent years.

The Golden Eagle Trust manages the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction Programme in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs.

Since the first successful breeding attempt on Lough Derg near Mountshannon, Co. Clare in 2013, 13 white-tailed eagle chicks have fledged successfully in the wild in Ireland.

This year young birds fledged in Co. Galway, Co. Kerry and Co. Cork. The successful rearing of a chick at Glengarriff, Co. Cork is the first Irish-born eagle to take to the skies of the county in more than 120 years, the Trust said.

Unfortunately the long-established pair at Mountshannon, Co. Clare that have successfully fledged chicks every year since their first breeding attempt in 2013, failed to hatch their eggs this year, according to the Trust.

While the Golden Eagle Trust describes the increase in the number of pairs raising young successfully as “encouraging”, it stresses that there’s still some way to go before they achieve their ultimate goal of a viable, self-sustaining wild breeding population of white-tailed eagles.

Over the coming years the trust is hoping that the small core breeding population will increase to consistently fledge 10 or more chicks annually.

It’s fantastic to see another six Irish-bred White-tailed eagle chicks fly from nests in Ireland in 2016, according to Dr. Allan Mee, project manager for the Golden Eagle Trust.

These young eagles represent the first of what we hope are many more Irish bred White-tailed Eagles to fledge from nests over the next few years to form the basis of a viable self-sustaining Irish population.

“The signs are good that we can achieve this with eight or more pairs likely to breed annually over the next few years.”

The next big milestone for the trust will be when Irish bred youngsters pair up and successfully rear Irish bred chicks.

It says that it takes about five years for a white-tailed eagle to reach maturity and be ready to breed, meaning it will be 2018 or 2019 before this is even possible.

Over the past six years white-tailed sea eagles have dispersed throughout Ireland and beyond. Many eagles have been reported from Northern Ireland, the Trust says, and at least six birds have travelled to Scotland.