Twenty three white-tailed eagles (chicks) arrived in Kerry Airport today as part of a long-term wildlife reintroduction project that is being led by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

The 2021 phase of this landmark collaboration to restore a native and once-extinct bird to Irish skies will see the release this year of the young eagles at four sites across Munster, including Killarney National Park, along the River Shannon, the lower Shannon estuary, and a site in Waterford.

The chicks were collected this June from nests throughout the Trondheim area of west-central Norway by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and flown to Kerry Airport.

They will be held for six to eight weeks at purpose-built flight cages at four sites in Munster, where they will be cared for and monitored by the NPWS, before being released into the wild in early-mid August.

As they mature, these chicks will join and strengthen the small Irish breeding population that has become established since the reintroduction programme began in 2007.

In 2020, 10 eagles were released along the River Shannon.

Nine of those birds survived their first year, and are currently dispersed at a number of locations in Ireland – one is in Scotland.

Previously, 100 young white-tailed eagles were released in Killarney National Park between 2007 and 2011.

Birds from these releases subsequently dispersed widely throughout Ireland with first breeding in 2012 on Lough Derg, Co. Clare.

Since then, a small breeding population of eight to 10 pairs have successfully fledged over 30 chicks, with an additional five chicks likely to fledge into the wild in Munster in the next few weeks.

This year, one nesting pair on Lough Derg has produced three chicks, which are due to fledge shortly.

This is uncommon, even in the very extensive wild populations in Norway.

Some Irish-bred eagles are now reaching maturity and starting to breed in the wild themselves.

However, a scientific review of the reintroduction project indicated the small population is still vulnerable to mortality factors such as illegal poisoning.

The breeding population was also negatively impacted by avian Influenza in 2018 and Storm Hannah in 2019, and adverse weather this year when pairs were on the nest.

This supplementary release is required to bolster the existing population.

Young eagles have been collected under licence in June 2021 by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and co-workers.

Birds will be transported and held at the four release sites in Munster before release in early-mid August.

Birds will be tagged, including with satellite tags, before release to allow the project to monitor their progress and their integration into the existing Irish breeding population.

An important aspect of any such releases is cooperation with the farming communities in the release areas and where birds settle to breed.