NEW CHICKS from the widowed white-tailed eagle have emerged in East Clare.
A male white-tailed eagle who had been living along in Lough Derg for the past four years has found a new partner, who he recently paired up with and they have now produced two chicks.
As part of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) white-tailed eagle reintroduction programme, the male eagle was released in 2008. Nature conservation, particularly where efforts to protect an endangered species is concerned, can take quite some time to see success.
This is the second time that this male eagle has bonded with a female after his first partner died from Avian Flu 2018. That earlier eagle pairing had also produced chicks including the first hatching and fledging of a white-tailed eagle chick in Ireland for over 110 years.
His previous partner died from Avian Flu and he had been living along in East Clare for four years until meeting his current partner.
Originally from Norway, the first female partner was released into the wild with fifteen other white-tailed eagle chicks in Lough Derg in 2020. She first flew off to Scotland but returned six months later and eventually bonded with the now single older male.
In February of this year, they set up a new territory and built a nest on Holy Island (Inis Cealtra) in Lough Derg. They subsequently mated and the female successfully hatched out one white-tailed eagle chick.
Eamonn Meskell, who heads up the NPWS White Tailed Eagle Reintroduction project, proudly said, “The male eagle has been single for four years since his previous partner died. Of course the fact that he has now found and bred with a new partner is significant to our project but we’re also delighted to see this eagle that we know well make a new bond and start a new family”.
“A story like this really brings our reintroduction programme to life, as 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.”
In addition, at another site in Co Clare, eagle-eyed NPWS staff have in recent days observed and tagged three chicks reared by one of the male eagle’s offspring from his previous partner. 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.
Meskill stated, “It is also incredible 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 nest. 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”.
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan (GP) commented, “The successful hatching of these White-Tailed Eagle chicks symbolises the patience and careful planning of a long term project such as the White Tailed Eagle reintroduction project. It gives us great hope and encouragement for the project which we always knew would take time and perseverance.
“As this story shows, reintroduction of the White Tailed Eagle hasn’t always been straightforward with factors such as Avian Flu and in the past illegal poisoning scuppering efforts. The current phase of the release programme aims to ensure the population is robust enough to give this once extinct species the best possible chance of long-term success in Ireland. The news from Clare of five chicks born to eagles from both phases of the reintroduction programme – and indeed to their offspring – shows why our continued efforts, perseverance and hope can lead not just to lovely stories such as this, but to hope and good news for nature,” the Junior Minister added.