Second generation of golden eagles soaring over Donegal

TWENTY years on from the reintroduction of the golden eagle into Ireland in Glenveagh National Park, the project has been successful with five pairs in the county this year and at least one chick fledged.
Lorcan O’Toole, who has worked on the Golden Eagle Trust since it began, said he is confident the golden eagle is here to stay. Some of those first eagles brought here from Scotland are now dying off but are being replaced by younger birds. The average life span of a golden eagle in the wild is 18 to 21 years.
“We know for sure one chick has fledged in Donegal this year but that could be plus one as I was off earlier this year and did not get a chance to visit all of the sites. We know three pairs bred. In one of our better breeding pairs on site this year, the male died of old age but the female is now paired with a younger male although he is too young to breed,” Lorcan explained.
Over the past 20 years there have been enough chicks fledged to maintain the population of golden eagles here. A golden eagle in captivity can live much longer than one in the wild.
“One bird was found dead in the Blue Stack Mountains which has been sent for post mortem, but we do not have the results of that as yet. It will be nice to get to the stage where we have four or five chicks a year. In recent years we have had two or three chicks but have not produced four in a single year so far.
“We have seen the spread of birds outside Donegal with little bits of activity in Northern Ireland. It may have been birds holding territory. We have not seen any spread to Mayo or Galway but hopefully that will change in the coming years. We have most of the areas in Donegal that could hold golden eagles are holding golden eagles. The landscape is changing gradually and I would expect the type of upland farming in response to climate change to alter,” he added.
While there was concern when the project began that the golden eagles would cause damage, they have flown over hundreds of properties but have not been interfered with. It is possible some may have been killed as people tried to kills foxes or crows.
“People are disappointed that they have not seen a golden eagle here but they are wild animals and are elusive. People walking in Glenveagh have seen them on shorter winter days and in early spring,” he concluded.


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