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White-tailed eagles were disturbed by blaze

May 9th, 2021 11:50 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Eagle Sunniva in her prime. (Photo: Clive Barton)

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THE biggest fire in living memory at Killarney National Park may yet have an impact on the country’s breeding programme for white-tailed eagles.

Glengarriff-based conservation ranger Clare Heardman was in Killarney on Monday as part of an ‘all hands on deck’ response to the four-day fire that burned through 2,500 hectares in the national park.

Readers of The Southern Star are probably more familiar with Glengarriff’s Mama P, her female offspring Sunniva, and P’s gentleman friend, Brendan.

But they are just part of a national breeding programme and the breeding pair in Killarney – named X and Y – may have been disturbed by the fire.

Clare confirmed that X did lay and the pair are still sitting on their nest at Killarney National Park despite the fire coming within 300m of their nest.

‘The female was still sitting there on Monday, so we are hoping that the fire and the helicopter didn’t disturb them,’ she added.

However, the conservation ranger said there can be no guarantee that one or more eggs would hatch because the nest may have been unattended for a time.

‘There was a lot of focus on the fire in Killarney, but the fires that happened in West Cork over the weekend are equally damaging to birds nesting on the ground and small mammals,’ said Clare, who pointed out that it is illegal to set wild fires between March 1st and August 31st.

‘A large bird, like the eagle, can fly off,’ she said, ‘but small mammals like lizards and frogs can’t escape quick enough.’

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