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Glen’ eagle was raised by male

August 18th, 2022 5:45 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Cuileann. (Photo: Clare Heardman).

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THE announcement of ‘a new arrival’ in Glengarriff coincides with the release this week of 16 white-tailed sea eagles in the country.

Mama P and dad Brendan have been devoted in their care of the young chick Cuileann, who hatched on April 22 last, and fledged the nest at the beginning of July. It was an historic event because Brendan, in addition to being a first-time dad, is also the first Irish-bred white-tailed sea eagle male to successfully breed in over 100 years.

‘Because they are a long-lived species,’ said Clare Heardman, the conservation ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), ‘they don’t normally breed until they are four or five years old. Brendan – the first male to rear a chick – is now five years old, having originally fledged from a nest on the Iveragh Peninsula in 2017.

‘While Mama P was very protective, spending a lot of time perched on the nest keeping an eye on her chick,’ Clare said, ‘Brendan has been an attentive parent too, regularly bringing fish from the harbour to feed Cuileann.’

The NPWS chose the name – the Irish word for Holly – because it is the name of the island from which he fledged.

Mama P, who arrived from Norway in 2011, has been nesting in the area since 2018. She and former mate W famously produced Sunniva whose every move in 2020 was captured on a live camera feed – a monitor installed by the NPWS. When W disappeared, everyone looked on as Mama P reared Sunniva on her own before mating with Brendan at the end of that year.

Sunniva, incidentally, is doing well but the excitement in all of this, according to Clare, is seeing the next generation going on to have their own chicks. The eagles built their new nest and laid in mid-March, but Clare said the NPWS kept it quiet due to an abundance of caution.

‘We wanted to make sure the new pair of eagles could nest in peace and have the opportunity to succeed,’ she said.

Today, Cuileann looks huge, but Clare said that at under 4kg at the time of tagging he was a lot lighter than Sunniva who weighed in at 6.8kg.

Cuileann has since been fitted with his colour ring and with a satellite tag and made his first flight to the mainland at the weekend. The news of his arrival comes in the same week that the Taoiseach oversaw the release of more white-tailed eagles into the wild as part of a long-term initiative to re-establish a population of this iconic species.

A total of 16 young eagles were released at three sites across Munster. The Taoiseach, who has followed the project for a number of years, said these magnificent birds will play a key role in a functioning ecosystem, after having been driven to extinction in the 19th century as a result of human actions.

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