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Soaring slowly, the eagle chicks take flight

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The eagle has landed – and so has the Taoiseach.

Soaring slowly: One of the fledgling white-tailed eagles needing a little encouragement to fly from NPWS conservation rangers, Micheal McSweeney and Danny O’Keeffe, at the release of the in the Tarbert Estuary.
Pictures: Valerie O’Sullivan

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was in Kerry this Friday to keep an eagle eye on a magnificent new development as part of the white-tailed sea eagle reintroduction project.

He was at the site in Tarbert Estuary to monitor proceedings for the latest phase of the initiative spearheaded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Eagle eye: An Taoiseach Micheál Martin checks the eagle chicks at the site in the Tarbert Estuary.
Pictures: Valerie O’Sullivan

Eagle chicks were collected in June from nests in the Trondheim area of West-Central Norway by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and flown to Kerry Airport.

They have spent the past eight weeks in purpose-built flight cages at three sites and, now strong enough and ready to spread their wings, they are being released from Killarney National Park, Lough Derg, Co Tipperary and the Shannon Esturary where their progress will be closely and expertly monitors by sophisticated tracking devices.

Only time alone will tell how these young eagles will fare. Some may not make it through their first winter when having to find enough food to survive is a big challenge. Young eagles are especially dependent on carrion that they find and scavenge, often in the uplands.

However, the omens so far are encouraging for this new generation of white-tailed beauties imported from Norway to Ireland, the latest in a ground-breaking conservation relationship between the two countries which has the full support of the government and the various agencies that arelinked with such exciting projects.

NEWS YOU CAN USE: WHITE-TAILED SEA EAGLES

  • White-tailed sea eagles lived in Kerry for thousands of years before being driven to extinction in the early 1900s
  • Sea eagles are scavengers by nature and live principally on carrion, which includes dead whales, seals, birds, sheep and deer.
  • The new Kerry eaglets will also hunt seabirds, fish that swim near the surface of water, rabbits and hares.
  • Sea eagles live in large nests made of branches and twigs normally located in trees or on cliff faces.
  • When they breed the female birds lay an average of two eggs, which she incubates for up to six weeks before the young fledge the nest after seven to nine weeks.
  • Eggs are usually laid between late February and the end of April.
  • Sea eagles are among the largest in the world. Their plumage is mainly brown but when they reach maturity they develop a pale head and white tail.
  • The eagles have a head and beak larger than the golden eagles and their eyes, beak and talons are bright yellow.
  • Once fully grown, the eagles have a body length up to 90cm and a wingspan up to 2.45m.
  • Females are, on average, 11 per cent larger and 43 per cent heavier than males.
  • Worldwide there are over 11,000 pairs of sea eagles

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