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White-Tailed Sea Eagle Chicks Hatched in Clare

5th June 2023
Three white-tailed sea eagle chicks in their nest awaiting the return of their mother, herself a chick of a male eagle who has just had chicks with a new female eagle
Three white-tailed sea eagle chicks in their nest awaiting the return of their mother, herself a chick of a male eagle who has just had chicks with a new female eagle Credit: NPWS

Two white-tailed sea eagle chicks have hatched in a successful pairing of two adults under Ireland’s re-introduction programme.

A male white-tailed sea eagle released in 2008 which had lived alone in east Clare for the past four years, has bonded with a female released in 2020.

Three chicks traced to the male's previous partner have also been observed.

Eamonn Meskell, who heads up the re-introduction programme for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), said that “a story like this really brings our reintroduction programme to life”.

“It helps people to learn about eagle breeding behaviour and the fragility of our reintroduction efforts, all told through the story of a widowed eagle”.

“For our project, the appearance of any new chick is a milestone and shows that the continuation of the project is proving successful,” he said.

Three chicks reared by one of the male eagle’s offspring from his previous partner have also been observed and tagged in Clare.

“ This earlier offspring, a female eagle, has thus far reared ten chicks which are spread around the island of Ireland, some of whom themselves are forming pairs,” he said.

Meskell described as “incredible” the fact that one of his offspring is now herself rearing three chicks.

“This is a very rare occurrence, as a very small minority of nest sites - in Ireland, Norway or anywhere else - have more than two chicks on the nest,” he said.

“ This is the second year that three chicks are on the nest at this particular nest site. This shows how suited Ireland and our lakes are from a habitat and feeding perspective for this reintroduction project,” he said.

Avian flu, illegal poisoning and climate change are the main challenges involved in securing the programme’s success, the NPWS says.

The male eagle who has found a new partner was originally released in Killarney National Park in 2008 and set up territory with a female from that batch, eventually making a nest in the Lough Derg area.

In 2013, this pair nested successfully and fledged a pair of white-tailed eagle chicks – the first hatching and fledging of a chick of this species in over 110 years in Ireland.

The same pair successfully fledged white-tailed eagle chicks for the next four years until 2018, when the female of the pair died after contracting avian flu, the NPWS says.

The male held the same territory without any mate for the next four years.

Three years ago, the NPWS began a second phase white-tailed eagle reintroduction project to boost the existing eagle population in Ireland, collecting 16 chicks from wild nests in Norway.

The original reintroduction programme (2007-2011) involved releasing 100 young white-tailed eagles in Killarney National Park, County Kerry.

The released eagles subsequently dispersed widely throughout Ireland, with the first successful breeding occurring in 2012 in Lough Derg, County Clare.

By July 2020, a small breeding population of eight to ten pairs had successfully fledged 31 chicks across counties Cork, Kerry, Clare, Galway and Tipperary.

Published in Marine Wildlife
Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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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

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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!