Hopes that a pair of rare while-tailed sea eagles in Co Clare would successful breed have been dashed following confirmation that the birds have abandoned their nest and eggs.
Wildlife experts in both Ireland and Norway had hoped that the eagles would successfully breed making it the first documented case in Ireland in over a century.
The breeding pair, which settled in the area in early 2011, was originally released in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry, as part of a white-tailed Eagle reintroduction programme. The birds were brought here from the island of Frøya off the west coast of Norway.
Last month, it was confirmed that the 4-year-old male and 3-year-old female eagles had set up home on an island on Lough Derg near Mountshannon.
Golden Eagle Trust project manager Dr Allan Mee has now confirmed: “These are young eagles and this was their first attempt to breed and there was a 50/50 chance that they would. But something happened during the day on Tuesday when suddenly the birds abandoned the nest. They flew to nearby trees and didn’t come back for a couple of hours.”
While there have been disturbing incidents in other parts of the country where white-tailed eagles have been poisoned or shot, Dr Mee confirmed that there was no evidence of any such attempt in this case.
“We checked to see if something was going on on the island but there was no evidence of that. It looks like like they left the nest right on the point of hatching,” Dr Mee added.
He suspects that the chicks may have died on hatching but he also fears that the nest may have been disturbed by the high winds over the weekend.
Dr Mee and his team were due to visit the island late yesterday (Wednesday) to further investigate what might have happened but he expressed confidence that the eagles will remain in the area.
“The birds are not going to abandon the area. They are visible around the island at the moment so it will be interesting to see how long they stay around but they will stay in the area even if they nest further up the shore next time,” Dr Mee added.
The eagles have also proven to be a huge attraction to locals and visitors to the Mountshannon area in recent weeks.