A total of 24 white-tailed eagle chicks have been released around Lough Derg, the Shannon Estuary and the west of Ireland.

The release took place this month as part of an ongoing National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) programme to reintroduce the once extinct species.

Once native to Ireland, the birds became extinct in the nineteenth century. Since 2007, the NPWS has been working with partners in Norway along with farmers and communities around the country to reintroduce the white-tailed eagle to Ireland.

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Minister of State for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan, who released four chicks at Killarney National Park as part of the release programme, said: “The juvenile white-tailed eagles we have released this week are joining a growing population across our island. This incredible endeavour is the result of 16 years’ work and collaboration, not just on the reintroduction programme, but also on habitat restoration and engagement with landowners to secure their ongoing protection”.

“These apex predators perform a vital role in our ecosystems and the sight of them soaring in the thermals is a privilege that everyone who lives in or visits Ireland will now have the opportunity to enjoy,” he said.

A comprehensive satellite tagging system is now in place so that the birds can be monitored as they disperse around the country.

Divisional manager at NPWS, Eamonn Meskell, who heads up the white-tailed eagle reintroduction Programme said there had been “huge interest from the public in the white-tailed eagle programme”.

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“Locations where they are spotted attract many visitors and local interest and we love to hear about sightings of the birds around Ireland and further afield. There are great stories to tell about the project. For example, the first Irish bred female to breed in over a hundred years has fledged seven chicks in three years,” he said.

“In Lough Derg this year for the second time a nesting pair fledged triplets. This is incredibly unusual – even in the wilds of Norway, and it shows how well suited Ireland really is for the white-tailed eagle from both a habitat and a feeding perspective. We’ll be watching this year’s chicks with interest as they mature and hopefully go on to fledge more chicks.”