Living the Wild Life

White-tailed Eagles Haliaeetus albicilla, also known as the Sea Eagle

Last year saw the launch of the most exciting wildlife reintroduction programme ever undertaken in Ireland! After one hundred years, the White-tailed Sea Eagle has come back to Kerry. County Kerry had been identified as the best place in Ireland to re-introduce the White-tailed Sea Eagle. into Killarney National Park as part of a five-year project headed by Project Manager Dr Allan Mee

The Golden Eagle Trust Limited in association with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Irish White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction Group will release 15 chicks a year being brought from Norway to specific zones of the Killarney National Park. This started by the release of the first 15 in June of last year.

It is hoped that after five to six years the birds will begin to breed across the wider coastal and upland regions of Kerry and West Cork. For almost a century people have been deprived of the glory of experiencing these great birds soaring again over our sea and landscapes.

White-tailed Eagles lived in Ireland for thousands of years, before they were driven to extinction in the early 1900's, due to poisoning, shooting and egg collecting. Sea eagles are scavengers and principally feed on carrion (mainly dead whales, seals, birds, sheep,deer).They will also hunt seabirds, fish that swim near the surface of the water, rabbits, hares and fox cubs.Sea Eagles construct large nests of branches and twigs in trees or on cliff faces. The female lays an average of two eggs, which she incubates for about six weeks before the young fledge the nest after 7-9 weeks. The first breeding of the sea eagles would be expected in 2012.Sea Eagles are mainly a coastal species. The re-introduction programme will see the birds return to their former haunts along our rocky coastlines and ranging inland to remote lakes and bogs further inland. It is estimated that by 2070, Kerry could sustain up to 60 pairs of eagles that would range as far away as Clew Bay. Birds will be marked with unique coloured and numbered wing tags and each bird will also carry a small radio transmitter, which will enable the Alan to radio track and locate birds as they move through the region. They are very large, broad-winged eagles with a wedge-shaped tail. Their plumage is mainly brown, but the adult has a pale head and a white tail. The head and the beak is larger than the golden eagles. The eyes, beak and talons are bright yellow. Sea eagles have a body length of up to 90 centimetres and a wingspan of up to 2.45 metres. Males weigh from 3-5 kilos and females weigh up to 6.5 kilos.

Apart from its obvious environmental merits, the re-introduction of the White-tailed Sea Eagle will also have wide-ranging socio-economic, educational and aesthetic advantages. The Irish Farmers Association and local farmers are concerned with the risk of losing lambs. According to the experts the eagles diet would mainly come from estuaries ea cliffs etc so no danger they may kill some lambs BUT not the norm. The eagles on this project will be fed for several months by the project manager after they have been released from the cages.


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