Local eagles are at risk of avian flu

September 20th, 2022 9:00 AM

By Jackie Keogh

One of two birds found dead on the Warren Beach in Rosscarbery. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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THE sensitive eagle population of Glengarriff could be at risk of catching the deadly avian flu which is currently sweeping along the West Cork coast.

Local conservation ranger Clare Heardman confirmed that avian flu could impact the white-tailed eagle population, which is part of a sensitive conservation project in the Glengarriff area. ‘Predators and scavengers are at risk,’ she said, ‘if they eat dead or dying birds with avian flu.’

She also confirmed that a young white-tailed eagle died of avian flu along the Shannon last year.

Cork South TD and Fianna Fáil spokesperson on climate and biodiversity Christopher O’Sullivan has recorded gannets in distress with clear signs of the virus near his hometown of Clonakilty.

And this week Birdwatch Ireland called on the Department of Agriculture to form a task force to deal with the avian flu crisis and to begin collecting the infected caracases which are becoming a regular sight along the West Cork coastline.

Birdwatch Ireland spokesman Niall Hatch said they have received hundreds of reports of dead sea birds, mainly gannets, particularly on south and east coasts.

‘It seems quite rampant among certain seabird populations and this is a concern.

‘This could be quite serious for our sea birds,’ he said, ‘as well as migratory ducks, swans, geese and wading birds,’ he said.

Birdwatch Ireland is also very concerned that there doesn’t seem to be a co-ordinated effort by the authorities to collect carcasses.

‘This seems to go against our own rules in terms of bio-security,’ he said, and of  limiting the possible spread to poultry, or potentially causing a human health problem.

Mr Hatch asked how many of the birds being reported are being tested because ‘if you don’t test you don’t get positives.’ Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the National Parks and Wildlife Service asked people not to handle sick or dead birds and keep dogs on a leash if sick or dead birds are present. The avian influenza hotlines are 01 6072512 (office hours) or 01 4928026.

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