Reintroduction of White-tailed Eagles Haliaeetus albicilla to Ireland

Journal Article

Title: Reintroduction of White-tailed Eagles Haliaeetus albicilla to Ireland
Publication Date:
January 01, 2016
Journal: Irish Birds
Volume: 10
Pages: 301-314

Document Access

Website: External Link


Mee, A.; Breen, D.; Clarke, D.; Heardman, C.; Lyden, J.; McMahon, F.; O'Sullivan, P.; O'Toole, L. (2016). Reintroduction of White-tailed Eagles Haliaeetus albicilla to Ireland. Irish Birds, 10, 301-314.

White-tailed Eagles Haliaeetus albicilla were extirpated as a breeding species in Ireland in the early 20th century following decades of population decline due to human persecution. Preparatory studies including population modelling, site selection and identification of a donor population, resulted in the initiation of a reintroduction programme for the species in the Republic of Ireland. Between 2007 and 2011 one hundred young White-tailed Eagles (51 males and 49 females) were collected from nests in Norway under licence and transported to Ireland for release in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry. Birds were held for 6-10 weeks before release. Wing-tags and radio and/or GPS satellite transmitters were attached to birds for individual identification and tracking post-release. Birds tended to remain in the Killarney area for the first few months after release, moving away in late winter but remaining in south Kerry. Most birds dispersed in spring, tending to return towards the ‘natal’ area in autumn. First pairing occurred in 2010 when birds were still sub-adults. First nesting took place in 2012 with chicks fledged successfully in 2013. The number of territorial pairs increased rapidly but declined after 2014 with the loss of some adult birds. However, the number of breeding pairs and the number of young fledged continues to increase, with 14 chicks fledged to date. Comparisons with the first phase of the Scottish west coast reintroduction suggest that the outlook for the Irish population is reasonably optimistic. Illegal poisoning (64% of known mortalities) has had a serious impact on population growth and continues to threaten the viability of the reintroduction programme.

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