Bird of prey: county man behind white tailed sea eagle reintroduction project hopes they come to Limerick

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

THE LIMERICKMAN behind the rare white tailed sea eagle reintroduction project is hoping they will breed in Limerick.

THE LIMERICKMAN behind the rare white tailed sea eagle reintroduction project is hoping they will breed in Limerick.

Dr Allan Mee, Ballyorgan is the manager of the project that hopes to restore the extinct bird to the Irish countryside. And as a Limerick man he would be delighted to see a pair or two nesting and breeding in his home county.

He says the Lower Shannon, taking in the Mulkear catchment, Lough Gur and the Shannon Estuary are all good nesting habitats.

“The white tailed sea eagle is a fish eater. It is one of the few eagles that can fish, most of the prey animals that are brought to the young in the nest are fish.

“Because of their dependency on fish they are very much tied to water. You won’t get them in farmland miles from water. They need to have suitable trees or cliffs for nesting and be on the coast or close to a sizeable water body like a lake or a good sized river,” said Dr Mee.

In 2007, the Golden Eagle Trust, in collaboration with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, released 100 white tailed sea eagles in Killarney National Park.

“We have released 100 birds in the wild over the five year period. Of the 100 we have recovered 19 dead. There has been a fair bit of poisoning, nine were confirmed. Some would be natural causes.

“We are hoping in the next couple of years we have enough birds alive to begin to breed,” said Mr Mee.

As it takes five years for the eagles to reach maturity Mr Mee says they are hoping for the first breeding in the wild this year.

“They are just getting to the age where they can breed now,” said Mr Mee, who would love to see them settle in his native place.

“The birds will choose themselves. It’s totally up to the birds and hopefully it would be nice to see a pair or two in Limerick,” he adds.

Some of the eagles have satellite transmitters and one bird paid a flying visit to Limerick around Christmas 2010.

“It was there for several weeks. He roosted around Shanagolden and near the tunnel,” said Dr Mee.

At one time the white tailed sea eagle was fairly common in Ireland.

“The last documented breeding in the wild was in 1898 in Kerry. The last individual bird was shot in 1910. For breeding they’ve been gone about 110 years.

“There was a lot of big Victorian estates at the time and they employed gamekeepers. There was a lot of sport shooting in the estates - deer, pheasant, grouse - so birds of prey were generally persecuted. It was that type of mentality and the arrival of poison in the 19th century was a critical factor in wiping out birds of prey,” he explains.

Mr Mee is speaking at one of four talks organised by MulkearLIFE commencing on February 6. Dr Mee’s talk, entitled white tailed sea eagles on the lower Shannon – a dream or a possibility? takes place at 8pm on February 20 in Inland Fisheries Ireland Office, Dock Road. For more information log on to {http://www.mulkearlife.com|Mulkear Life|Click Here.