Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Young White-Tailed Sea Eagle Died from Poison, NPWS Confirms

22nd January 2023
A file photo of a White Tailed Sea Eagle Credit: Wikimedia

A white-tailed sea eagle which was brought to Ireland as a chick from Norway was poisoned, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has confirmed.

The bird had been a healthy juvenile male but was found dead on lands between Cavan’s Lough Ramar and Westmeath’s Lough Sheelin in November of last year.

Tests conducted at a State laboratory have identified that it died from an illegal pest control substance known as Carbofuran, the NPWS says.

The NPWS is now appealing for information on the death of the bird, and says it is urging people to be aware that the use of poisonous substances for the control of species such as foxes and crows is illegal, and has been since 2010.

The tests at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine Dublin regional laboratory in Backweston immediately ruled out Avian flu, illegal shooting or trauma, it says.

“Subsequent toxicology tests conducted by the State laboratory, have confirmed it had been poisoned with an illegal substance, known as Carbofuran. It is not known how the eagle ingested this substance, but possibly from eating carrion (a dead animal) laced with it,”it says.

The White-tailed sea eagle was just over a year old and had been brought in as a chick in 2021 from Norway under phase two of a national re-introduction programme.

It had been fitted with a small satellite tag prior to its release on Lough Derg in 2021, and the bird had been largely spending time around Lough Sheelin (Co. Westmeath) and neighbouring counties and seemed to have settled into its new surroundings, the NPWS says

A further two White-tailed eagles have been observed in the general Westmeath area - a 2020 female released on Lough Derg (who has been largely staying on Westmeath lakes for nearly 18 months now) and a 2021 male released in Killarney National Park, it says.

“These two birds have been in Westmeath since April of last year. Reaching maturity at around five years old, these young eagles will hopefully survive to strengthen the small Irish breeding population that has become established since the reintroduction programme began in 2007,”it says.

The NPWS says it was delighted that three of these birds had chosen Westmeath as their new home, and their movements were being monitored, until the tag from the juvenile male White-tailed eagle indicated it was in the one spot in Cavan for a troubling length of time.

Carbofuran is a plant protection chemical (i.e. an insecticide) which is extremely toxic, particularly to birds.

“Studies in the United States in the 1990s showed a single granule alone, resembling a natural seed grain in size and shape, could kill a bird. Its approval for use in crop production was withdrawn over a decade ago in Ireland, and possession of carbofuran is illegal. Despite this, carbofuran and other poisons continue to be used to target wildlife in the wider countryside,”the NPWS says.

NPWS Regional Manager Maurice Eakin said that white-tailed sea eagles are a protected species under the Wildlife Acts, and this latest fatality once again highlights “how prevalent this illegal practice continues to be”.

“In this instance, it is particularly disturbing that the reckless laying of poison has resulted in the death of a White-tailed eagle, one of our largest and most majestic bird species, which had been persecuted to extinction by the early 1900s,” he said.

“The potential for positive economic benefits from the re-introduction of the eagles has been demonstrated in Mountshannon, Co. Clare, when the first breeding pair in Ireland in over a century nested within sight of the village in 2012, attracting thousands of visitors over the following years,”the NPWS says.

Established in 2011, the RAPTOR protocol (Recording and Addressing Persecution and Threats to Our Raptors) involving the NPWS, the regional veterinary laboratories and the State laboratory, has quantified and highlighted the impact of illegal poisoning in Irish birds of prey.

Mr Eakin said the NPWS is seeking any information from the public in the Westmeath/Cavan region, particularly anyone who may have seen any persons or vehicles acting suspiciously in recent weeks in the general area between Lough Sheelin and Lough Ramar, of Co. Cavan, which may assist them with their enquiries.

Anyone with information on the matter is asked to contact NPWS at 01-5393156, and it says information “will be treated confidentially”.

“Alternatively, information can be supplied to An Garda Síochana,” it says.

Further information on NPWS work protecting raptors here

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!