Rare sea eagles released into wild

Once-extinct sea eagles were today released into the wild by Minister for the Environment and Heritage John Gormley.

The majestic birds of prey, who vanished in Ireland around 100 years ago, tasted freedom in the skies over Killarney National Park in Co Kerry.

The young white-tailed eagles are expected to disperse to the Atlantic coastline in coming weeks but will be monitored by a team of experts via tags on their legs.

Mr Gormley said the project will also have long-term benefits for tourism in the south west region.

“I know the white-tailed eagles in Scotland attract thousands of visitors annually and hopefully, in time, these birds will attract similar visitor numbers and will prove another attraction in promoting the wild and unspoilt landscape of the south west region.”

Fifteen eagle chicks were flown first class from Norway to Kerry Airport in June and were met by a protest by 100 local farmers.

Landowners believe the sea eagles may target lambs in coastal areas and called for an effective management strategy.

A sea eagle adult can grow up to 3ft 4ins long with a 8ft 4ins wingspan. The adult is mainly brown but has a distinctive white tail.

It preys on fish, birds, carrion and occasionally small mammals.

International researchers identified Co Kerry as the best place in Ireland to re-introduce the birds because of the unique rugged coastline habitat.

In Co Donegal, a project to re-introduce the Golden Eagle is now in its sixth year.

The sea eagle project will help meet Ireland’s commitment to maintain and enhance its native wildlife under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The white-tailed eagle project is a partnership between the Golden Eagle Trust, The National Parks and Wildlife Service and others with funding provided by the Environment Department.

The initiative will operate over a five-year period and will follow the methods of other successful trials in Ireland and Scotland.

The sea eagle was once common in Ireland but died out after being trapped and shot in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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