White-tailed eagles released into the wild at Lough Derg 100 years after extinction
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White-tailed eagles released into the wild at Lough Derg 100 years after extinction

WHITE-TAILED eagles are making a comeback in Ireland after a long-term plan to reintroduce the once-native species is being proven a success.

In June, we reported on how ten eagle chicks were flown into Kerry from Norway as part of the programme, which has been ongoing for 13 years now, and would be taken to Lough Derg and the Shannon Estuary to acclimatise before being released.

Now the time has finally come, and last Sunday four of the young eagles were released out to the wilderness of County Clare's Lough Derg.

Speaking at the release, Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said, “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. These are our largest birds of prey and one of the most impressive birds in the world. "

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Mr Noonan went on to reveal that Ireland's reintroduction efforts had hit a fantastic new milestone, as the first Irish-bred White-tailed Eagle had successfully fledged her own young at Lough Derg-- 100 years after the species went extinct in Ireland.

“Once driven to extinction through human persecution, I am delighted to see these, majestic birds returning to our skylines and becoming an established part of the Irish landscape after an absence of some 100 years," Minister Noonan added.

Ten chicks were flown into Farranforer airport in Kerry in June as part of the reintroduction programme (Dept of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht)

Dr Allan Mee, assisting the NPWS with the release project, said the birth is "a hugely important milestone for the project and, we hope, the first of many of a new generation of Irish-bred chicks to Irish parents."

"Eagles are now nesting again in some of our most iconic scenic and cultural landscapes such as near Holy Island (Inis Cealtra) on Lough Derg, the Killarney lakes, Connemara, Glengarriff and on the western tip of the Iveragh peninsula in Kerry, where they would have nested in historical times, perhaps even on the same islands used back in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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The formerly native White-tailed Sea Eagle has been reintroduced to Ireland after the species went extinct 100 years ago (Getty Images)

"It’s wonderful to see these birds back where they belong, nesting and rearing chicks”.

Two more young White-tailed Sea Eagles will be released at the Lough later this month, and four more will be released at the Shannon estuary.