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Fri6th Nov 2015

Breeding: -Thirteen pairs held territory in Ireland in 2015 (Fig. 1). At least nine pairs built nests and eight pairs laid eggs.  For the first year since breeding began in 2012 more than one pair successfully fledged chicks: five pairs hatched chicks across four counties with four of these pairs fledging a single chick each (Table 1).

Fig. 1 Growth in number of WTSE breeding and non-breeding pairs in RoI.

One WTSE pair (CE01) nested successfully again in 2015 for the third year in succession fledging a single chick from a nest near Mountshannon, Co. Clare. Other pairs in Kerry (KY03 Killarney, KY04 Beara) and Galway (G03) successfully hatched and fledged chicks for the first time. Indeed pair KY04 became the first Irish nesting pair to fledge a chick on its first nesting attempt.  A fifth pair (CO1) hatched two chicks but this breeding effort failed late on when the surviving chick was recovered dead in the nest. This chick was about 10 weeks old and potentially close to fledging. Examination of the chick on site and further post-mortem revealed a blockage in the crop and stomach apparently due to the chick swallowing feathers and bone. The nest itself contained abundant food items including several dogfish and thorn-backed ray. 

Table 1. Breeding parameters for WTSEs in Ireland (2012-2015)





No active




No young


No fledged/

Nesting pair

No fledged/

Successful nest





























Two new pairings were documented in 2015 (C02, KY11) although the Co. Cork site had been occupied by a single apparently unpaired bird, presumably the C02 male, since 2013. Interestingly the C02 female was previously paired and had nested in 2013 and 2014 in west Kerry but apparently abandoned the site after her mate was found dead in Sept 2014. A new ‘pairing’ (KY11) nested at the same site and indeed occupied the same nest in 2015 and observations suggest the resident female (red :) may have been driven out and the territory usurped by the KY11 females. Both these females had been largely resident in a nearby lough throughout 2014. The ‘pair’ male (blue 19) had spent the spring and summer of 2014 on the west Kerry coast and had been previously recorded with a 2011 female (black •1) feeding at salmon cages near an offshore island. A second trio (KY09) also nested for the second year in succession in south Kerry. Both trios laid eggs but neither failed to progress beyond the early stages of incubation. In the latter case the nesting attempt apparently failed following a “squabble” between the two males, presumably resulting in the birds breaking the egg/s. As discussed in the 2014 report, trios are rare but not unprecedented in small populations where there are few or no alternative mates or breeding opportunities. Neither ‘pairing’ has shown any definite signs of break-up and indeed the KY11 trio looks set to renest at the same site in 2016. Whether interaction between the KY09 males results in this trio breaking up in 2016 remains to be seen.

As well as the loss of the KY08 pairing, at least two other pairs have now broken up, in all cases likely due to adult mortality: G01 and KY07. Sadly the G01 female was on the point of egg-laying when she was recovered dead on the nest in early April 2015. The pair male, satellite tagged Star, subsequently abandoned the territory and dispersed widely around Ireland although returning to the nest area some months later. As of Oct 2015 Star appears to be resident on a freshwater lake in the north-west of Ireland. Another pair has not seen on site since early 2014. There was no breeding evidence for three other pairs (KY02, KY06, and G02) and it remains to be confirmed whether all these pairs are intact.    

The expansion of the breeding population to counties Cork and Galway as well as Kerry and Clare is encouraging with at least eight pairs laying eggs and four fledging chicks. However, as we have seen with the loss of adults of breeding age in 2015, losses of adult/sub-adult birds from these pairs can slow or even halt reestablishment of a viable breeding population through pair break-up and individuals remaining unpaired/non-breeding for several years due to lack of suitable mates and/or breeding opportunities. Thus, minimizing losses, especially of adult and sub-adult WTSEs will be critical to reestablishment as well as maintaining and increasing the current breeding population.

White-tailed Eagle chick, Kerry 2015
Sun13th Sep 2015

Since fledging in mid July, Cealtra, the 2015 young female White-tailed Sea Eagle has been gradually finding her wings. As you probably know she is one of 4 sea eagle chicks fledged this year from nests in the wild in Clare, Kerry and Galway (sadly a 5th hatched at Glengarriff in west Cork didn’t make it). All 4 chicks are now flying about and gaining much needed experience of their environment while still, in most cases, being pretty much dependent on their parents for food. The last fledged chick (in south Kerry) has yet to leave the nest area, happily hanging out in the beautiful glen she hatched in while her parents return every now and then with food.

Cealtra, our only satellite tagged sea eagle chick from Mountshannon, Co. Clare, has been steadily exploring within a few kilometres of her nest on Lough Derg, initially travelling a few km east along the shore of the lake but recently flying some 5km to the Tipperary side and back. Apart from the nest island she has been roosting on some of the other islands nearby and even visited Inis Cealtra (Holy Island).....well she had to didn't she! Over the last couple of weeks she has put in fleeting appearances to the nest island in Mountshannon bay so today (13/9) the Bird Information & Viewing Point on the pier in Mountshannon was closed for the winter.....hard to believe it’s that time of year already....

Over the coming months look out for updates on Cealtra's progress as she explores more and more of Lough Derg, and wherever the fancy takes her. 

Cealtra explores Lough Derg
Wed5th Aug 2015

The first White-tailed Sea Eagle nests in Co. Kerry in over 100 years have successfully fledged chicks in 2015! Two pairs, one in Killarney National Park and the other on the Beara peninsula near Kenmare, fledged single chicks at each nest.  This was the third attempt to successfully raise a chick by the Killarney pair while the Beara pair succeeded on their first attempt. Since fledging, the Killarney chick has been closely followed and fed by its parents around the Lower Lake where the trio have been seen by local boatmen and some excited tourists! It’s likely that the young eagle will spend the next few months around the Lakes of Killarney before wandering more widely across Ireland. 

Over the last month four young White-tailed Sea Eagle chicks fledged successfully from nests in counties Kerry, Clare and Galway bringing to seven the number of Sea Eagle chicks to have flown from nests in the wild in Ireland since 2013. Four of the seven chicks have come from one nest at Mountshannon, Co. Clare, on Lough Derg, by far our most successful pair to date. Happily a second pair took up residence on Lough Derg in 2013 and also nested successfully in 2015, raising their first chick. A fifth nest, at Glengarriff, Co. Cork, raised a single chick but sadly this chick died close to fledging.

Although its early days, each successful nesting and chick fledged brings the reintroduction project a little closer to its goal: a self-sustaining viable breeding population of White-tailed Sea eagles in Ireland. The expansion of the breeding population across four counties stretching from Glengarriff in West Cork to Connemara in West Galway (c200km north-south) is a positive sign. Over time the population is likely to expand further and/or increase in density in some of the best habitat as new pairs settle close to other pairs. This seems to be happening on Lough Derg and hopefully elsewhere on the Shannon and western lakes. Areas such as Lough Derg may become doubly important as source areas for Sea Eagles because they produce chicks most years and the pairs remain stable over time (few if any losses of breeding adults except to natural causes).

Importantly Lough Derg is hugely productive and most farming along the Clare shore is cattle, either dairy or dry stock, with none of the dangers associated with nesting in upland sheep country (ie. the continued use of illegal poisons by some landowners).  However it is critical we address the continuing losses of birds (3 adults lost in 2015 to date) to human related mortality. Otherwise young Sea Eagles dispersing away from safe breeding areas will continue to be vulnerable while pairs settling on new sites may be lost before they have a chance to nest successfully (as happened this year in Connemara).

Finally, a big thank you to all the local people who contributed so much to monitoring nests in 2015, including those from the farming and fishing community who really do value these magnificent birds and have seen first-hand that eagles and farming can co-exist in a benign way. Communities in Glengarriff, Killarney and Mountshannon have also seen the potential for the birds to enthral both locals and tourists alike and hopefully this will be the case for many years to come. As in 2014 the Bird Viewing & Information Point at Mountshannon, Co. Clare, is open every day on Mountshannon pier where Mountshannon Community Council and Clare Co. Co. have provided local people to man the facility and show visitors the nesting eagles. National Parks & Wildlife Service has also played an important role especially in Glengarriff and Beara....take a bow Clare Heardmansmiley

Thanks also to Damian Clarke (NPWS) for his tree climbing and eagle hugging expertise! And to Clare Hearman and Alan MacCarthy for picssmiley

Over the next few months look out for updates on our young eagles, especially Cealtra, the young satellite tagged female Sea Eagle who left her nest near Mountshannon in July! 

White-tailed Eagle chick, Beara July 2015
Thu16th Jul 2015

On 1 April 2015 the mate of our satellite tagged White-tailea Eagle male Star was found dead on the nest in Connemara. Tragically she was on the point of egg-laying but was found poisoned by local conservation ranger Dermot Breen (see [previous blog). White-tailed Eagles usually pair for life and take some time to get over the loss of a long-term mate. Indeed we have seen how parents seem to “mourn” the loss of a chick by spending days close to the nest as a pair, often calling for long periods (excuse the anthropomorphism but it’s hard to describe some eagle behaviour without using human terminology!).

Well after spending the next week around the nest site in Connemara after the loss of his mate, Star headed off on a trek across Ireland, leaving on 6 Apr for the Longford-Westmeath border. Next day he headed south into Laois, west to the Tipp shore of Lough Derg, passing by the Mountshannon eagle nest site on 9/4 before roosting SW on Slieve Bernagh, Co. Clare. Next day he made it back to Connemara. ON 16/4 Star repeated the trip east to Roscommon before heading SE to Redcross, Wicklow nest day, west into Offaly on 18/4 and back to Connemara next day.

Not hanging about Star headed SE to N Tipp on 20/4, then into Kilkenny and on east to roost in the Wicklow Mts on 23/4, Blessington on 24/4, west into Offaly on 25/4, south to the Knockmeldown Mts on the Tipp-Waterford border on 26/4, returning to Connemara by the 30/4.  On 5/5 Star headed east again to the shore of lough Corrib, then south to the Silvermines in north Co. Limerick on 8/5, NE to Glenealy, Co Wicklow (again!) on 9/5,  NW to Blessington next day and back to Glenealy on 11/5. Star headed back west into Co. Galway on 13/4, and back to the Corrib next day.

Star remained on the Corrib for the next two weeks before heading easy again on 28/5 to Lough Ree, then east to Redcross, Co. Wicklow on 29/5, NW to Lough Owel, Westmeath, on 30/5, Derravaragh on 1/6, back to Lough Ree on 3/6, then NW to Lough Gara on the Sligo-Roscommon border on 9/6, before finally returning to his nest site in Connemara on 14/6. On 26/6 Star headed back NE to north Roscommon where he has been more or less resident over the last 2-3 weeks.

Will Star return to Connemara or perhaps the Corrib and find a new mate before the 2016 breeding season? Losing a mate can result in the loss of a breeding pair and the desertion of former breeding territories. It would be tragic to think that Star might fail to find a mate. Let’s hope he isn’t a loner for too long!

Star trips across Ireland
Tue2nd Jun 2015

White-tailed Eagles have successfully hatched chicks across four counties in Ireland. Eight pairs of White-tailed Eagles have nested and laid eggs with five nests successfully hatching chicks in counties Clare, Cork, Galway and Kerry. In the last few weeks’ chicks hatched in nests on Lough Derg at Mountshannon, Co. Clare, at Glengarriff in West Cork, and in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry. Pairs also successfully hatched chicks at a nest in Co. Galway for the first time and at another site in Kerry. Three other pairs nesting in Kerry failed to hatch successfully. Interestingly two of these “pairs” were made up of trios: two males and a single female at one site and two females and a male at another, both in Kerry! 

The first nest to hatch young in 2015 was at Glengarriff, Co. Cork, in mid-April with fledging (its first flight) expected in early July (11-12 weeks old). Later in April a pair was confirmed to have hatched chicks at their usual nest site on Lough Derg, near Mountshannon, Co Clare. This pair created history in 2013 when they reared the first chicks to fly from a nest in Ireland in over 100 years. The pair also reared the only chick to successfully fledge from a nest in 2014. The pair resident on the Lakes of Killarney in Killarney National Park hatched a chick in early May. Encouragingly two other pairs, one in Galway and another in Kerry both hatched chicks for the first time.

Hopes are high that the five successful pairs will successfully raise chicks that will go on to form the basis of a viable population in Ireland. This would potentially be the first White-tailed Eagle chicks to fledge successfully in Kerry, Cork and Galway, Clare already having been successful in 2013 and 2014. These are the latest chicks of the high profile reintroduction programme which began in 2007 with the release of 100 young Norwegian eagles in Killarney National Park as part of the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction Programme managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys commented It is great news that white tailed eagle chicks have been successfully hatched across four counties. This is a considerable boost for the reintroduction programme and it is a very positive sign for the recovery of the species here. The white tailed eagle is an iconic bird, which is very popular in local communities and of course attracts interest from visitors. I would like to commend the ongoing work of those involved in the reintroduction programme and acknowledge the strong support from local communities and landowners who are helping to make it a success.”

We are delighted that White-tailed Eagles are now nesting and hatching chicks successfully for the first time across four counties”, said Dr. Allan Mee, project manager for the Golden Eagle Trust. “In 2013 we had our first chicks reared in the wild in Clare but this year we are excited to see that pairs are nesting as far away as Galway, although Kerry remains the stronghold for the species.  The increase in the number of successful pairs is encouraging and bodes well for the species recovery in Ireland. Ultimately the viability of the reintroduced programme depends on these chicks going on to breed themselves in Ireland. Each step brings us closer to that goal. Many people have helped us reach this goal over the years. We especially wish to thank local communities in Mountshannon and Whitegate, Co. Clare, Glengarriff, Co. Cork, in Killarney and elsewhere in Kerry, and in Galway for their goodwill and continued support. The eagles have benefitted from the support of local communities and landowners, and their presence has the potential to enhance the rural economies of these areas, especially through wildlife tourism.”

News of the hatching has been greeted with excitement locally in East Clare. John Kavanagh, Chairman of Mountshannon Community Council said “We are delighted that this pair of eagles has made its home here near Mountshannon for the fourth year in a row. These birds made history in 2013 by being the first to raise chicks successfully in Ireland in some 100 years. Everything has gone to plan for the pair again this year having hatched a single chick. The eagles have become a focal point for the community and have attracted visitors from all over Ireland and beyond. Thanks to the vital support of Clare County Council who have again provided the Bird Information & Viewing Point on the pier we are again able to welcome eagle lovers to Mountshannon. Last year saw almost 10,000 people visit the site to see the nesting pair between July and September so it’s clear people are hearing about the birds and coming to Mountshannon to see them. We would ask everyone to respect all our wildlife and give these magnificent birds a chance to nest and their young to survive to breed in the future.”

Vera O’Rourke spoke on behalf of the Mountshannon Eagle Group “We are really pleased that the eagle pair “Caimin and Saoirse” has successfully hatched again this year on an Island close to Mountshannon for the third year in a row.  It’s great news for the whole of the Lough Derg area. We thank everyone for their cooperation in helping to protect these birds and their nesting area. We ask that people keep their distance from the nesting Island to give these magnificent birds of prey every chance to rare their chicks. Remember you don’t have to go out on the lake to view the eagles. A specially constructed Bird Viewing and Information Point (BVIP) supplied by the Clare County Council is opened at Mountshannon Harbour from where people can view the eagles through telescopes that are in place within the unit. The BVIP is opened and run daily by Information Assistants from whom visitors will get up to the minute information on the activities of the Eagles”.

The news of hatching eagles has also been greeted with delight in West Cork. Local Conservation Ranger Clare Heardman has been watching the pair’s progress closely since nesting began. It has been an incredible experience watching the eagles in Glengarriff working towards what will hopefully be their first breeding success, having lost a chick at two weeks old in 2014 due to bad weather.  After sitting tight on the eggs for over a month, the parents again faced the challenge of keep the chick warm, dry and fed as the weather turned particularly bad at the beginning of May.  However, they demonstrated their greater level of experience as parents and the chick survived the storm. The nestling is looking big and strong now at over six weeks of age, and it is very exciting to think that 2015 could be the first year in over a century that a Cork-born white tailed eagle is seen flying again”. Local NPWS staff would like to commend the role of local people, in particular the ferry operators in Glengarriff Harbour, for helping ensure the eagles were not disturbed by people out on the water. We would urge anyone interested in seeing the eagles to observe them from a distance. 

The news of nesting White-tailed Eagles has generated alot of excitement locally in East Clare, West Cork, as well as Galway and Kerry and is likely to attract the attention of people keen to see the birds. However disturbance, particularly during the early stages of nesting when the birds are on eggs or have small chicks, would be detrimental to the pair’s success. “We are very conscious of the risk of disturbing the birds especially at this stage of nesting”Dr. Mee added. Please note that it is an offence under the Wildlife Act (1976) to willfully disturb White-tailed Eagles at the nest. Disturbance could result in the birds leaving the small chicks unguarded for a period during which they could be predated or be chilled or the birds could desert the site. We would caution people not to approach the nest area but instead avail of the unique opportunity to watch from a nesting pair of sea eagles from nearby Mountshannon pier. Information on the birds, their ecology and conservation will be available. We would like to acknowledge the goodwill and assistance of local people in the Mountshannon area, Mountshannon Community Council, local angling, gun clubs and Clare County Council before and during the nesting period“.

Whatever the outcome of these nesting attempts, the signs are good for future breeding in the area and at a number of other sites across Ireland in the near future. White-tailed Eagles can live for 25-30 years and generally mate for life with adult pairs remaining within their home range throughout the year. First time breeders, especially young birds, often fail at their first attempt. However, with the goodwill and support of local communities the species should have a bright future in Ireland.



·         The White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, and Red Kite Reintroduction Projects in the Republic of Ireland are managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in the Republic of Ireland.  
·         For more information on the White-tailed Eagle reintroduction project and to follow project updates visit www.goldeneagletrust.org and www.npws.ie 
·         White-tailed Eagle chicks were collected under licence in Norway and transported to Ireland for release.
·         One hundred young White-tailed Eagles were released between 2007 and 2011 in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry. To date 29 birds have been recovered dead, mainly due to illegal poisoning.
  • Over the past six years White-tailed Sea Eagles have dispersed throughout Ireland and beyond. Many eagles have been reported from Northern Ireland and at least six birds have travelled to Scotland. One male that spend 8 months away from Kerry in 2009 travelled over 2,000 kilometres to the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland before returning to Kerry. In early 2011 this male was found paired with a female in south Kerry. Immature White-tailed Sea Eagles may disperse over a wide area but once birds begin to mature and pair up at 4-5 years old they establish territories along the coast and inland lakes where they are resident throughout their lifetime.


  • The breeding population of White-tailed Eagles has increased from one pair in 2011 to 14 territorial pairs in 2014.


  • The first nesting in the wild was near Mountshannon, Co. Clare in 2012 and the first chicks also fledged (flew) from a nest near Mountshannon in 2013.


  • The young eagle (named Aoibheall) fledged from the nest in Mountshannon in July 2014 spent its first winter on Lough Derg and later on the Little Brosna callows in south Offaly before moving up the Shannon to Lough Ree.


  • Historically, the White-tailed Sea Eagle was once a respected and conspicuous part of the Irish landscape, before it was driven to extinction in the early 20th century by human persecution. 


  • Illegal poisoning remains the greatest threat to the eagle’s recovery. A six-year old breeding female was found poisoned on the nest near Roundstone, Co. Galway, in April 2015. Her mate has since deserted the nest site.


  • Nesting White-tailed Eagles feed predominantly on fish and to a lesser extent on birds and small mammals.



  • Some 10,000 people visited Mountshannon, Co. Clare, in summer 2014 to view the breeding White-tailed Eagles. A visitor survey found that White-tailed Eagles were the primary reason for visiting Mountshannon for 43% of those surveyed. Most (55%) stayed in the local area on visits. Most (89%) also said they would come back to see the birds in future.








1.       Dr. Allan Mee,

Project Manager, Irish White-tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction Programme

Golden Eagle Trust

Tel: +353-873117608

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Website: www.goldeneagle.ie



White-tailed Eagle chick, Mountshannon
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