• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Fri18th May 2012

A breeding attempt by a pair of White-tailed Eagles, near Mountshannon, Lough Derg, has unfortunately failed at the point of hatching. The birds started to lose interest in the nest site on Tuesday (16/5/12) evening and did not attend the nest at all on Wednesday (17/5/12). A nest visit yesterday by Golden Eagle Trust and National Parks and Wildlife Service staff confirmed that only egg shell fragments and the remains of a tiny White-tailed Eagle chick staff were left inside the nest cup.

The pair of White-tailed Eagles is still in the nest site vicinity. The breeding female was only three years of age, whereas they normally begin to breed as four year olds. Therefore it is not surprising that she would not be successful in her first breeding attempt, especially before she reached maturity. Whilst the natural breeding failure is disappointing, it nonetheless clearly demonstrates that the Irish landscapes can support these magnificent birds.

Other territorial pairs in Kerry and Galway will hopefully breed next season alongside the Clare pair. The Mountshannon breeding eagles were released in County Kerry as part of the Irish White-tailed Eagle reintroduction programme. The Programme has been managed and developed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) since the project was first muted in 2006.

The primary funding for this national project has come from NPWS and the Golden Eagle Trust is grateful that NPWS had to foresight to invest and support this imaginative project from the outset. And despite this disappointing news, we are reassured that the initial vision of restoring White-tailed Eagles to Ireland has now begun to become a reality.

Whilst the recent focus has centred on the excitement of the breeding attempt, the Golden Eagle Trust would like to highlight the extremely valuable support of the Mountshannon community and an array of local bodies, for protecting this nest site and facilitating the public viewing at the harbour. The Mountshannon Community Council, the Mountshannon Search and Rescue Team and local FÁS scheme have been extremely supportive in facilitating the Project Manager, Dr Allan Mee.

The local people, from schoolchildren to senior citizens, came to look at 'their eagles' on a regular basis and the enthusiasm and support was palpable. We believe this pair will now become another attractive part of the Lough Derg landscape. We also take great succour from this ongoing community support for the restoration of native eagles.

Whilst these birds may be breeding in Clare, we should not forget the support of the people of County Kerry who have embraced the 100 young White-tailed Eagles initially released in their midst and have given the project steadfast support since the birds were first released. Their 10,000 strong petition played an important role in convincing the national authorities that there was widespread support in rural Ireland for restoring the eagles to our coasts, rivers and loughs.

Numerous visitors from County Clare, elsewhere in Ireland and abroad have already come to Mountshannon to see the eagles. We estimate that the nest attracted 700-800 people a week. The numerous comments in the visitor book reflect their appreciation for being able to see eagles in the Irish countryside again. The level of interest in the site over the last two weeks would suggest that there is enormous potential for celebrating our wildlife and cultural heritage all along the Shannon Basin.

The pair of White-tailed Eagles is likely to remain on and near Lough Deg over the rest of the summer. People should keep an eye out for the birds as they fly and forage over the rich bays and islands between Whitegate, Mountshannon, Scarriff and the Tipperary side of Lower Lough Derg. The birds may begin prospecting for new nest sites early in the New Year, though it is possible that they could re?use this year's nest.

White-Tailed Sea Eagle Mountshannon

Breeding Pair:
"2008 male tag Y", and "2009 female tag %"

Eggs laid c9 April

9 Apr-15 May
Both birds shared incubation over the next 5-6 weeks with female doing the "night shift". Male tended to do more of the daytime incubation in the first few weeks with bouts up to 8 hours without changing over. Closer to the expected hatch date (16-18 May) female attended the nest more than the male. Both birds mostly fed away from the nest while off-duty, but food was also brought to the nest by the male when the female was sitting. All food items identified were fish species but duck feathers were also recovered from nest.

15 May
Female incubating as normal in morning. However two periods when both birds left nest during the day (9 minutes off on 2nd occasion). This was unusual and followed on a change in behaviour over last few days with birds "restless" at nest, standing and re-sitting more often than previously (responding to egg hatching?). Just before 1800 both birds deserted the nest and perched c100m away showing no interest in returning to nest. Female returned to nest later that evening and stood for some time on nest rim before departing again. Birds did not return after this.

16 May
Nest entry to check nest c 1700 hrs. Damian Clarke (NPWS) climbed to the nest. Nest well built and completely intact. Eggshell fragments and wing of chick with inner membrane of shell still attached recovered indication chick died at or around hatching. No evidence of a second egg/chick but almost 24 hours since nest abandoned. Hooded crows observed at the nest earlier in day and likely removed/predated nest contents.

While it was disappointing that the nest failed this was always likely as the pair are young (4th cal year female, 5th cal year male) and first time breeders regularly fail to produce fertile eggs and/or hatch. Clearly this pair laid fertile eggs so mating is not an issue. Throughout incubation the pair rarely left the nest and the experience gained this year should be invaluable on their next attempt. At present the pair is still roosting on the nest island. It remains to be seen whether this pair re-nests at the same site next year.

The monitoring effort at the nest site, during daylight hours throughout the incubation period, could only have been achieved with a lot of voluntary effort including NPWS staff. The nesting and the public nature of the site also generated huge positive interest locally but also attracting visitors from throughout Ireland (c 1,000 over the weekend of 5-7 May). A full-time person (Anna McWilliam) was hired to coordinate the effort for the period of nesting. Mountshannon Community Council and the local FÁS crew as well as Search and Rescue provided much help locally. We are grateful to John Maguire (NPWS) for prompt help re licensing and Damian Clarke for tree climbing and inspecting the nest contents.

Dr. Allan Mee

Young WT Eagles abandon nest at hatching time
Mon30th Apr 2012

A pair of White-tailed Eagles has been confirmed nesting near Mountshannon, Co Clare, the first documented nesting attempt for the species in Ireland in over 100 years. Nest building began in recent weeks with the birds spending much time in and around the nest site before laying eggs. Although the nest has not been visited to confirm the presence of eggs to avoid any unnecessary disturbance, the behaviour of the birds indicated that the birds have nested. The breeding pair, which settled in the area in early 2011, was released in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry, as part of the White-tailed Eagle reintroduction programme developed and funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in partnership with Golden Eagle trust. This is the first known nesting since the reintroduction programme began .

"This is a truly momentous event", said Dr. Allan Mee, project manager for the Golden Eagle Trust. "It seems a long time since we collected these birds as chicks from nests in the wild in Norway and to see them now nesting in the wild themselves in Ireland is the day we have all been waiting for". The breeding pair, a four year old male and three year old female, was collected in 2008 and 2009 respectively on the island of Frøya off the west coast of Norway. White-tailed Eagles are fully mature and usually begin to breed at five years of age but birds in Scotland have very occasionally bred as early as three. "We had hopes that this pair might try and build a nest but because the birds are relatively young we really didn't expect them to breed", Dr. Mee added. "The odds are stacked against young first-time breeders because they have no experience of nest-building, mating and caring for eggs and young. They have to get everything right to succeed. But this pair has impressed us so far. Once they settled down to incubate the clutch of eggs both parents were very diligent. The nest has only very rarely been left unattended and birds have been quick to spot potential dangers such as the presence of hooded crows which might predate the eggs. Since the eggs take some six weeks to hatch they still have a long way to go. But so far so good".

In Norway news of the nest was also greeted with delight. The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), one of the Norwegian partners in the reintroduction programme commented: " NINA is delighted to hear of the first breeding attempt of the white-tailed eagle in Ireland for 110 years, and proud to have cooperated with The National Parks and Wildlife Service, The Golden Eagle Trust, and the Norwegian Ornithological Society in the effort which has led to this success. The event is receiving considerable media attention in Norway and we hope the birds will be given the freedom from disturbance they need to maximize the chances of successful breeding. The NINA part of the programme was led by Dr. Torgeir Nygård and Dr. Duncan Halley."
- Norunn Myklebust, Director, NINA

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D. said:
"I am delighted with this news after years of hard work by many on this project. We are working hard in my Department to protect and enhance our natural heritage and this development is a great boost. Already the White-tailed eagles are a wonderful asset to tourism around Killarney and wider afield in Kerry, and their spread will benefit business as well as giving joy to anglers and naturalists around the Shannon."

Over the past four 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 news of nesting White-tailed Eagles has generated a lot of excitement locally in east Clare 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, would be detrimental to the pair' success. "We are very conscious of the risk of disturbing the birds especially at this stage of nesting. Disturbance could result in the birds leaving the eggs unguarded for a period during which the eggs could be predated or be chilled or the birds could desert the site. White-tailed Eagles are a protected species and it is an offence under the Wildlife Act to willfully disturb birds at the nest during the breeding season. We would caution people not to approach the nest area but instead watch from the viewing area onshore where we will have a telescope for close viewing. Information on the birds, their ecology and conservation will be available. We would like to acknowledge the goodwill and assistance of the local community and Clare County Council before and during the nesting period".

Whatever the outcome of this nesting attempt, the signs are good for future breeding in the area and at a number of other sites across Ireland in the near future. Birds 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 birds should have a bring future.

This is fantastic news for County Clare and reflects the outstanding landscape and biodiversity we have here that can attract such beautiful birds" said Shane Casey, Biodiversity Officer for Clare County Council. "While it' understandable that everyone will want to visit the area and have a look for themselves, its important to remember that this is a very sensitive and critical time for the birds, and as such we need to show some patience and responsibility, and let nature take its course unhindered. We are all hopeful that this story ends in a chick, but we must remember that this is already a success story, and that the first white-tailed eagle egg laid in Ireland in over a century was laid right here in County Clare!


NOTE: White-tailed Eagles are a protected species and it is an offence under the Wildlife Act to willfully disturb birds at the nest during the breeding season.

Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad? Now what will we do for timber,
Tá deireadh na gcoillte ar lár;..... with the last of the woods laid low?...
..Ní chluinim fuiaim lachan ná gé ann, Ducks' voices nor geese do I hear there,
ná fiolar ag éamh cois cuain, nor the eagle's cry over the bay,
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it www.goldeneagle.ie This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it www.goldeneagle.iewww.facebook.com.www.goldeneagle.ie This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • 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. One hundred White-tailed Eagles have been released between 2007 and 2011 in Killarney national Park, Co. Kerry. To date 20 birds have been recovered dead.

  • Over the past four 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 Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and the Norwegian Ornithological Society were the partner organizations for the White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction in Norway. The NINA part of the programme was led by Dr. Torgeir Nygård and Dr. Duncan Halley.

  • 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.

  • Their images were drawn on the page margins of early Irish manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells. The decline of eagles in the late 17th century was lamented in the famous Tipperary poem; Caoine Cill Cháis [Lament for Kilcash]

    Writing about Irish eagles in his book, 'The Way that I Went'( 1937), Robert Lloyd Praegar stated, "Heaven help the bird that ventures near the 'Island of Saints'".

    Now in 2012, we have come full circle. Eagles are nesting once again along the Shannon. The nest is only 2km from the famous Early Christian Monastic site at Holy Island, Mountshannon. Hopefully, the ongoing revival of the ancient co-existence with nature, will see eagles breeding on Ireland's waterways and coasts for centuries to come.


    1. Dr. Allan Mee,
    Project Manager, Irish White-tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction Programme
    Golden Eagle Trust
    Tel: +353-873117608

    1. Lorcan O'Toole
    General Manager, Golden Eagle Trust
    Tel: +353-871310177


    Click on Facebook icon on GET homepage at - Or search for Golden Eagle Trust after logging into your Facebook account.

    2. Shane Casey
    Biodiversity Officer
    Clare County Council,
    Áras Contae an Chláir,
    New Road, Ennis, Co. Clare
    Tel: +353-65-6821616


    Here are some links to guest houses and information on the area which may be of use for anyone who intends to travel to Mountshannon.

  • Sunrise bed and breakfast is situated on an elevated site just 300m north of Mountshannon in Co. Clare. Experience the peace and tranquility of the East Clare countryside with panoramic views overlooking Lough Derg (River Shannon) and the Arra Mountains.

  • Lakeside Holiday Park is set in the heart of the countryside surrounded by woodlands, mountains, islands and the truly spectacular lake of Lough Derg. An exceptional location full of natural beauty and wilderness.

  • http://www.mountshannon-clare.com/

  • http://www.visitclare.net/


    The Golden Eagle Trust Limited need your support to carry out these important and exciting conservation programmes as well as to implement new initiatives. We would be very grateful for any donations from individuals or organisations. Annual sponsorship or indeed one-off donations are very welcome. Donations and sponsorship can be either for the Golden Eagle Trust Limited or for a specific project. You will receive a receipt for each donation received, so that you can claim any appropriate tax relief on the donation.

    All cheques or postal orders should be made payable to the Golden Eagle Trust Ltd and sent to our registered address:

    The Golden Eagle Trust Ltd
    22 Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2

    Given the Golden Eagle Trust Limiteds track record in species recovery and conservation, your support is guaranteed to be used effectively to benefit extinct and threatened birds.
Sea Eagles nest for the first time in 100 years
Thu26th Jan 2012

The following extraordinary incident took place in Glenveagh National Park on Sunday 8th January 2012. A group of 15 walkers from Derry City were walking down the glen along the Glenveagh Bridle path on Sunday afternoon. They were about a mile from the Glenveagh Castle Tearoom, walking along the vehicular track, secured by boulders along the Lough shore, in an area known as the Long Hollow.

They heard some commotion and 'rushing' sound above them in the skies. As they looked up, they saw an eagle crashing through the nearby bare Oak tree branches and ivy. It landed on a large moss covered granite boulder. They were able to walk close to the bird and take the above photograph. Though the picture is somewhat fuzzy, due to excitement, you can see the white plastic tag on the right wing and the green colour bar at its base - denoting a green wing tag on the left wing. The letter F is reasonably distinct. Its Satellite tag and short antenna is visible on its back also.

The Satellite tag on this White tailed Eagle, Fiadhna (White/Green F), has allowed Allan Mee follow her as she visited many parts of the island of Ireland over the last year; including Counties Antrim, Derry, Tyrone, Armagh, Louth, Longford, Tipperary, Kerry, Clare, Galway, Kilkenny, Carlow, Wicklow and Sligo. She is quite a remarkable bird. She has been all over Donegal since May 2010 - especially West Donegal.

However, because its Satellite tag signal seemed to come from the same location for several consecutive days, from above Dunlewey, on the edge of Glenveagh National Park, we had searched for a dead bird or a dropped Satellite tag on the hillside between Christmas and the New Year. We were beginning to think she may have been scavenged once we could not find the corpse or tag, near its last know GPS location.

But obviously its tag had simply stopped working, as it is still attached to the bird. The very poor solar activity recently, i.e. continuous rain, may have drained the battery power and the solar cells may reactivate in due course.

Anyway, the group could see the bird's eyes were still blinking as it lay on the mossy boulder. Unbelievably, the bird landed only 12 metres from the main Glenveagh track. The walkers made their way to Glenveagh Castle and returned with Pat Vaughan, from the National Park and Wildlife Service, within 30 minutes. There was no sign of Fiadhna despite a thorough search of the vicinity. A subsequent search of all the neighbouring boulder scree and surrounding woodland on Monday 9th January found no trace of Fiadhna either.

We can only presume that Fiadhna was somehow stunned and fell to the ground, only to recover and fly away soon afterward. What could have caused her to drop out of the sky and then recover? This White tailed Eagle was within the territory of the breeding pair of Golden Eagles in Glenveagh National Park. The only reasonable guess we have is that the White-tailed Eagle was simply dive bombed by a territorial Golden Eagle (presumably the female ? from Assyant, Sutherland ? a hardy bunch!) and struck in mid air, by closed talons and fell to the ground as a result. This may account for the commotion heard overhead, but not seen, before the eagle crashed through the treetops.

Anyone, who has witnessed, heard, and almost felt, the 'swoosh' of air from a nearby plummeting eagle in the skies above will vouch for this truly remarkable sound and memorable feeling. Another couple of walkers in the Park saw a Golden Eagle soaring along the ridge, further up the Glen, a short time afterward. The territorial female Golden Eagle was also seen patrolling the valley skyline the following day, Monday.

Fiadhna was noted being actively chased and harried by the Golden Eagle pair in the middle of last year's breeding season. Now that the winter evenings are stretching, the Golden Eagles will begin to assert their territorial claims more actively. We do presume that Fiadhna managed to fly away after her ordeal and we will be keeping an eye out for her in the Derryveagh Mountains over the coming weeks. We are relieved to know that she did not die on a hillside above Dunlewey.

As for the Golden Eagle, it does suggest that this pair of released Golden Eagles have not lost any of their aerial prowess and aggression during the release process. In due course, it is likely that the White-tailed Eagle population will gradually begin breeding along the western seaboard of Ireland and elsewhere. Whilst this is quite an exceptional incident, it is somehow encouraging that the ancient competition between White-tailed Eagles and Golden Eagles, on the margins of their preferred habitat niches, is once again playing itself out above the Mountains and Loughs of Ireland.

Stop Press + + + On Friday 13th January 2012 Fiadhna's Satellite Tag started giving signals again after recharging, probably during a couple of bright spells of sunshine, in Donegal, during the middle of the week. She was recorded near the head of Glenveagh, over 2km from the incident lower down the Glen. On Saturday, a local lady saw a White-tailed Eagle perched on a telegraph pole, near Lough Barra, another few Kilometres away. So it does appear that Fiadhna was merely stunned and recovered quickly from her fall and flew away. + + +

Lorcan O Toole, Golden Eagle Trust

Fiadhna stunned
Sun13th Nov 2011

Stop Press "14 Cranes were seen today in Ballincollig (to the west of Cork City) flying near Maglin Valley at 13.25 hrs and 19 Cranes were simultaneously seen near Midleton Dual Carriageway (east of Cork City) before 12.00 noon and stayed there all day. So it appears that there are two flocks of Cranes, comprising 14 and 19 Birds, on either side of Cork City."

15 Eurasian Cranes (Cranes) were seen flying north, high over Castletownroche, North Cork last Saturday (12/11/2011) by Mike Hirst. On the same day another Crane was photographed flying over Rogerstown Estuary, Dublin on Saturday. The awareness of the rich lost heritage of Cranes in Ireland is slowly emerging from the distant past. Few native birds can rival its widespread cultural footprint and connections with Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the Druids, St Colmcille and the Book of Kells. The Irish word for Crane was 'Corr' and the long lost significance of Old Irish phrases and place names, originally associated with Cranes, may yield hitherto overlooked associations. The possibility of restoring our native Cranes on wetlands and wet meadows in the North Midlands, and their proven tourism value, is now being investigated.

The sight of migratory trumpeting Cranes is a well known wildlife spectacle worldwide. The Cranes are predominantly grey and long legged birds. They have a unique bald wattle on their crown - where the absence of any feathering reveals their red wattled skin. Prior to the breeding season their excitable Crane dance and displays have always caught the human imagination. They gather in flocks during the winter and have a melodic trumpeting call as they fly high in 'V' formations across the skies. Those memorable encounters have been long lost from Irish society, as Cranes became extinct in Ireland sometime in the late 18th Century. But on Saturday, Mike Hirst had the enviable privilege of witnessing such a tantalising glimpse into Ireland's cultural and natural heritage. On the same day an even closer encounter with a single Crane by Mark Carmody and Shay Connolly on the east coast at Rogerstown - emphasis that Cranes are slowly retracing their ancient footprints across the Irish landscape.

Rather appropriately, TG4 aired a wildlife programme, Ag Dul in Éag, exploring the extinct breeding Cranes in Ireland last Tuesday (8/11/2011). Articles in the Archaeology Ireland magazine and the Irish Eagle News have also focussed on Cranes over the last twelve months. Gordon D'Arcy book, Lost Irish Birds, published in 1999 was the first major breakthrough in our understanding of our natural riches lost over the centuries. The Golden Eagle Trust attended the European Crane Working Group Conference in 2010 and invited experts from the Swedish Crane Working Group to visit Ireland in July 2011. Their expert opinion suggests that the wetlands and wet meadows in Longford, Roscommon, Leitrim and many other places are still suitable for cranes, providing a rich source of earthworms, wetland vegetation and other dietary items such as berries and snails.

In ancient Ireland, Cranes were almost uniquely protected from hunting by a well established taboo amongst the Gaels. Research by Professor Fergus Kelly suggests that the Peata Corr, was the third commonest pet (after dogs and cats) during the Brehon Law period. Whilst there may be debate over whether these pets were Cranes or Herons, evidence from numerous other ancient societies, including Egypt, North America, Pakistan, convincingly point at the domestication of Cranes. The Crane Bag was a well known magical container in our ancient folklore. It had associations with Manannán Mac Lir (the great Sea God), Lúgh and Fionn Mac Cumhaill. The Early Irish Christian Church followed on with this Crane respect. The famous High Cross at Ahenny, Tipperary has a Crane leading a funeral procession at its base, the bald red patch on the crown of a crane is illustrated in the Book of Kells and St Colmcille was known as the Crane Cleric.

The Golden Eagle Trust has been examining the possible hidden remnants of Corr (Crane) words in Irish and Irish place names. The Irish word itself is probably onomatopoeic, as several bird field guide describe 'Korrh' among its several calls. There is no 'k' in Irish. Experts in the ancient Indo-European language (which preceded Celtic, Latin and Germanic languages amongst others) suggest Crane were called 'Kor' ? several thousand years ago. There are scores of words beginning with 'cor' in Irish, some with tantalising similarities with other known crane words in other languages. Crane associated place names are one of the commonest bird related names in Britain. In Ireland, our ancient town land names (Logainmneacha) contain several hundred names beginning with 'Cor'. Research in the 19th and 20th century often interpreted these ancient names, suggesting 'Cor' meant odd, mound, hollow, swamp etc. The Cranes were long extinct at that time. But it is conceivable that the English version of old Irish place names, as varied as Cork, the Curragh, Tubercurry, Corofin and Corbally may have evolved over the Millennia from Crane and Crane haunts originally.

Ancient cultures across the world, from China, to Africa, Europe and America, believed that Cranes held knowledge. Their association with rich feeding wetlands, ancient grasslands and bog lands may have been keenly observed by early nomadic migratory family groups, seeking sustenance in unexplored landscapes. Our Gaelic and other ancestors believed Cranes deserved special respect. On Friday, Michael D Higgins, our new President, said "Now it is the time to turn to an older wisdom". The Golden Eagle Trust believes that a wide range of rural sectors could benefit from turning back toward some aspects of our ancient cultural heritage, our Seanachas.

The return of the Crane could give a fresh impetus to the tourism sector in Longford, Roscommon and south Leitrim. The abandonment of hundreds of small marginal farms in wetland margins or upland areas has to be challenged and resolved - probably through new agreed Agri-Environment measures under the emerging High Nature Value farming concept and proposals. The increasing risk of flooding and water supply needs a new imaginative approach - as expensive concrete barriers will only be focussed on urban centres. The acceptance and understanding of the importance of wetland areas, that control the slow release of erratic flood event waters and underpins large scale tourism attractions in marginal communities has to be explored. The return of the Crane, or Corr, can highlight the real economic, cultural and natural importance of wetlands. On the back of a good weekend for Ireland, can the sight of a flock of 15 Cranes in Ireland be seen as a catalyst by an imaginative society that respects its rich heritage!

Lorcán O Toole
Golden Eagle Trust,
tel. 087 1310177
or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Cranes 1
Tue18th Oct 2011

The European population of the Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos, has a widespread but discontinuous distribution across much of Europe. The European breeding population is small, and it is estimated to be as few as 8,400 pairs. Its range has been drastically reduced over the past century as a result of persecution and loss of breeding habitat. Breeding areas are now restricted to remote mountain areas in Sweden, Finland, Scotland and parts of southern Europe. Golden Eagles once bred on the north-west coast of the Republic of Ireland in County Donegal, where the landscape essentially consists of uplands and mountains dominated by blanket bogs. In its heyday, Donegal held up to 12 Golden Eagle home ranges.

Irish Golden Eagle Project Summary 2001-2011

In 2001, wild Golden Eagle chicks taken from Scottish nests, under a licence from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), were reintroduced into Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal, Republic of Ireland. The reintroduction project is managed by the Golden Eagle Trust (GET) in partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). The project was primarily funded by EU LIFE Nature funding from 2001-2006 and by NPWS from 2006 to the present. The Irish Golden Eagle Project Steering Group relies upon the goodwill of the Scottish fieldworkers and the support of the Scottish authorities for the provision of donor stock. Initially SNH issued a collection licence for up to 75 young birds, with a limit of 15 chicks a year. Under the SNH licence, a single chick can only be taken from eyries with two chicks. Chicks are taken at when approx. 6 weeks old when they can thermo regulate and feed themselves from food placed on the nest. At the beginning of the project we over-estimated the number of two-chick broods available in Scotland. For this reason the collection of donor stock has taken longer than initially anticipated.

Fig 1. 63 Golden Eagle chicks collected from Scotland (2001-2011).

Table 1 : Annual number of Donor stock collected
2001 6 Birds (Golden Eagle chicks)
2002 8
2003 12
2004 10
2005 7 Sub total 43 birds over first 5 years (8.6 birds a year average)
2006 4 (Licensing restrictions introduced to protect Scottish Eagles)
2007 4
2008 5
2009 0
2010 5
2011 2 Sub-total of 20 birds over next 6 years (3.3 birds a year average)
63 Birds collected in Total

60 Birds were released in Glenveagh National Park. Two birds collected in weak condition have been placed in long term captivity – one in Forar, Scotland and one in Donegal. A third bird collected from the Uists, died in captivity - as did several other well feathered chicks in the Uists that season. The exact cause of death for these Uists chicks was never established.

The wild Golden Eagle chicks were placed in avian release cages in an isolated part of Glenveagh National Park in Donegal County. Following the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001, and the associated restrictions, the project subsequently received a constant flow of chicks from Scotland. However, following growing concern regarding the status of some of the Scottish Golden Eagle sub-populations, SNH licence restrictions were imposed from 2006 onwards. International reintroduction best practice guidelines (see IUCN guidelines - http://www.iucnsscrsg.org/download/English.pdf ) stipulate that the removal of donor stock for a new founder population should never threaten the status of a donor population.

In order to maximise the survival rate of the released immature Golden Eagles food dumps were established in Glenveagh National Park. These food dumps were used by the birds immediately after release; but the birds were also seen feeding independently shortly after release. The food dumps helped boost first year survival rates and delay dispersal patterns.

The following groups and individuals have supported the project and located eligible donor stock; Scottish Raptor Study Groups, Highland Foundation for Wildlife, Haworth Conservation, Forestry Commission, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Natural Research, The National Trust for Scotland, Davey Aiton, Dave Anderson, Stuart Benn, Jon Brain, Keith Brockie, Jamie Boyle, Duncan Cameron, Martin Carty, Ken Crane, Russell Cooper, Colin Crooke, Roy Dennis, Andy Douse, Des Duggan, Brian Etheridge, Alan Fielding, Arthur French, Ronnie Graham, Justin Grant, Derek Hayward, Roger Hayward*, Paul Haworth, Hugh Insley, David Jardine, Glyn Jones, Ron Lawie, Kevin Lawlor, Peter Madden, Mike Madders*, Doug Mainland, Wendy Mattingley, Liz McDonald, Mike McGrady, Enda McLoughlin, Bob McMillan, Ian McPherson, Kate Nellist, Mike Nicholl, Duncan Orr-Ewing, Abbie Patterson, Dave Pierce, John Ralston, John Rhead, Robin Reid, Gordon Riddle, Ben Ross, David Sexton, Ken Slater, John Smith, Derek Spencer, Patrick Stirling-Aird, Andy Summers, Bob Swann, Des Thompson, Jeff Watson*, Ewan Weston and Phil Whitfield.

*These individuals sadly passed away during the course of the project.

The Golden Eagle Trust is also grateful to the landowners, gamekeepers, farmers and deer stalkers who facilitated the collection of birds from private estates in Scotland.

Survival Rates

Figure 2 – Minimum First year survival rates (%) of released Golden eagles in Ireland. The above graph includes the 3 wild bred young reared in Ireland 2007-2009.

The survival rates shown in Fig. 2 are based on radio tracking and a small number of re-sightings of individual birds with complete wing tag identification by the general public. As the project progressed and as earlier favoured haunts became occupied by territorial pairs the newly released birds began to disperse more widely. For example, a pair was established near the Glenveagh National Park release site before the 2006 cohort were released. As a result it has become more difficult to accurately assess the annual survival rates of each cohort. So the above graph is just a minimum figure and is based on some very small sample sizes from later cohorts.

Of the 60 released Golden Eagles (2001-2011)

– 4 were recovered dead and post mortems have shown natural causes of death.

– 1 bird was confirmed poisoned in Donegal (2009)

– 1 bird was confirmed poisoned in Tyrone, Northern Ireland (2010)

– We believe one golden eagle was shot in County Mayo, Republic of Ireland.

– The Golden Eagle Trust, Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group (NIRSG) and RSPB have passed on intelligence to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) regarding the probable persecution of 4 other Golden Eagles in Northern Ireland (2 poisoned in Antrim 2009 and 2010 – information via NI's Forest Service staff, 1 poisoned in Fermanagh 2010 – information via NIRSG and 1 bird shot in Antrim 2009 – information via RSPB)

[1 Irish fledged young was poisoned in Sligo, Rep of Ireland 2010.]

In summary, of the 60 released birds we have approx 25 alive in Donegal at present. 4 released birds have died from natural causes. 2 released birds have been confirmed poisoned. 5 other released birds have probably died as a result of persecution. This would suggest 11 of the released birds have died, 25 of the released birds are still alive and 24 of the released birds are currently unaccounted for.


We had a female with two yellow wings tags turn up and establish a territory and build a nest in North Donegal this year. This bird was released in 2001 and had not been seen since 2003. We do not know where this individual was for the last 8 years.

We have received 4 records from Scotland of wing tagged Golden Eagles, each with different colour wing tags, which were clearly released in Glenveagh National Park. Gamekeepers reported individuals from Birste Estate and Balmoral Estate and the public reported birds from Rannoch Moor and the Isle of Mull. Unfortunately, none of the Scottish sightings have recorded complete individual wing tag details, which underline the difficulty in getting close up observations of Golden Eagles in general.

Like most bird of prey reintroduction programmes, the key question is where are the missing or ‘unaccounted for' birds? If one assumed the very unlikely scenario that every one of these ‘missing' birds was persecuted, this would suggest 31 (2 confirmed poisonings, 5 probable persecution cases and 24 ‘missing' birds) of the 60 released birds have been persecuted, i.e. just over 50%. Or approx 3 birds a year lost to illegal activity.

The GET does not accept this viewpoint, as it would rule out any other birds dying from natural causes. It would also suggest that some of the released Golden Eagles visiting Scotland and Northern Ireland were persecuted in the UK. This hypothesis would also exclude the sub-adult birds that are wandering across the mountains elsewhere in the Republic of Ireland, which have not been identified individually. Nonetheless, it is suffice to say that bird of prey persecution is a real threat to all raptors across Ireland and Britain and it has clearly limited the survival rates of the Golden Eagles released in Donegal. The long distance and Omni-directional dispersal of several raptor species, prone to poisoning, is why co-operation between the respective Statutory Conservation Authorities, across Ireland and Britain, is so essential in tackling wildlife crime.


1 pair, of four year old eagles collected in Scotland in 2001, nested and laid an egg in Donegal in 2005. Two pairs laid eggs in 2006. And finally in 2007 a pair of Golden Eagles produced Ireland's first wild bred Golden Eagle chick in almost a 100 years, in Glenveagh National Park.

Two chicks fledged in 2009 (from 1 pair), three chicks fledged in 2010 (from 2 pairs) and two chicks fledged in 2011 (from 2 pairs). In total 8 wild young have fledged in Donegal during 2007-2011, as a result of the release of Scottish donor stock.

In 2011, there were 8 Golden Eagle territories in Donegal, including 2 breeding pairs, 3 territorial pairs and 3 territories occupied by single birds.

The 2011 Golden Eagle Collection from Scotland

Two Golden Eagle chicks were collected from Scotland in 2011. On Sunday 13th June 2011, one bird was collected North west Mull. The second chick was collected from South east side of Loch Tay, Perthshire on Friday 8th July.

In light of this year's shortage of qualifying donor stock, the Golden Eagle Trust would like to collect very young Golden Eagle chicks from nests that never fledge two young. We are quite anxious that we do not release any imprinted Golden Eagles into the wild in Ireland. We are currently examining the possibility of rearing 7-14 day old chicks, before exporting them to Ireland, using fostering techniques with captive female Golden Eagles in Scotland.

Irish Poisoning Legislation

All bird of prey poisoning incidents in the Republic of Ireland have been illegal since the Golden Eagle project started in 2001. However, additional legislation was enacted by the Irish Government in October 2010, which tightened previous restrictions and all outdoor poisoning is totally illegal in the Republic of Ireland and increased fines and penalties have been enacted.

The Department of Agriculture also stated publicly that anyone found poisoning non rodents would be in breach of the Cross Compliance measures of their Single Farm Payment. The European Commission had made inquiries regarding the enforcement of poisoning legislation in Ireland following a complaint by the Golden Eagle Trust (GET) in November 2009.

A post mortem protocol, between the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), the Regional Veterinary Laboratories of the Department of Agriculture and the State Laboratory, has been signed and established. Formal discussions have also taken place, between the Department of Agriculture in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and the NPWS, concerning the possibility of sharing resources and costs as regards toxicology testing.

Following an internal Departmental organisational review, and queries by the European Commission, NPWS have established a review group to examine their enforcement of the Irish Wildlife Acts and their associated wildlife crime database.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has almost 80 Conservation Rangers. Their primary responsibility is to enforce the European Habitat and Birds Directives and Irish Wildlife Legislation. They have the power of arrest, in certain circumstances, and they are enforcing Ireland's Wildlife Legislation.

To date in 2011, only one of the birds from the three reintroduction programmes, a Red Kite in Wicklow, has been confirmed poisoned in the Republic of Ireland. Three Buzzards and one Peregrine have also been confirmed poisoned in 2011. We concede that illegal poisoning will continue in Ireland – but it appears that we have made significant progress over the last twelve months and more focussed enforcement strategies are being established.

Overview of Irish Raptor Conservation

The Irish Golden Eagle Reintroduction Project is part of a much wider national raptor conservation effort in Ireland. Ireland had one of the lowest range of raptor species and some of the smallest raptor populations of any European country, when the project started in 2001. The paucity of raptors resulted in lower public awareness, fewer specific raptor policies and less raptor fieldwork coverage than other European countries at that time.

Therefore, it is worth noting that the Irish Golden Eagle project, since 2001, has been a catalyst and part of a much wider raptor conservation effort in Ireland, beyond the Golden Eagle project itself. These improvements in Irish raptor conservation include;

• 100 White-tailed Eagles, collected from Norway, have been reared and released in a GET/NPWS project in County Kerry, SW Ireland, between 2007 and 2011. 4 territories are now established.

• 159 Red Kites, collected from Wales, have been released in a GET/NPWS project on the east coast of the Republic of Ireland, between 2007 and 2011. 120 birds were released in County Wicklow, where 17 young fledged in 2011. 39 Red Kites were released in North County Dublin in 2011.

• In addition, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds released 80 Red Kites in County Down, on the east coast of Northern Ireland, between 2008 and 2010. The Dublin kite release site is half way between the kite populations in Wicklow and Down.

• The Irish White-tailed Eagle survival rates are slightly higher than the current Scottish White-tailed Eagle project survival rates. The survival rate of the Irish Red Kite population is higher than the Black Isle and Central Scotland kite projects. An independent SNH review of the Irish Golden Eagle project, in 2009, found the survival rates of released Irish birds was comparable to wild Golden Eagle survival rates in Scotland.

• In recent years, three individuals have completed their PhDs, on Peregrine, Barn Owl and Hen Harrier ecology, respectively, adding to Ireland's scientific raptor skill set.

• Birdwatch Ireland now has a full time Raptor Conservation Officer.

• The three release projects have a high profile in Ireland and are used to highlight their respective counties as tourism destinations. As a consequence they have the requisite local and national political support because of their undoubted economic value to Ireland.

• The raptor release programmes have solid political support. The Minister for the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan T.D. (responsible for NPWS and nature conservation) released the Red Kites in County Dublin and the White-tailed Eagles in Kerry in July and August 2011.

• In October 2010, Ireland's national TV station, RTE, aired a four part series on the Irish reintroduction programmes. One half hour episode dealt entirely with illegal bird of prey poisoning in the Republic of Ireland.

By Lorcán O Toole, October 2011

No image available
Page 3 of 4