"Sickening": Rare, pregnant White-Tailed Eagle found dead in her nest

Sad: The pregnant White-Tailed Eagle was found dead in her nest
Sad: The pregnant White-Tailed Eagle was found dead in her nest

Conservationists have been left "sickened" after a pregnant White-Tailed Eagle was found dead in its nest.

The six-year-old White-Tailed Eagle, also known as the Sea Eagle, was found dead in the nest on 1st April by Conservation Ranger Dermot Breen. 

A subsequent post-mortem examination at the Regional Veterinary Laboratory in Athlone and toxicology analysis at the State Laboratory in Celbridge revealed the bird had been poisoned.

The post-mortem found the female to contain two developing eggs, so this female was within a few days of laying eggs.

The young female was released in Killarney National Park in 2009 as part of a reintroduction programme for the species managed by the Golden Eagle Trust in partnership with the National Parks & Wildlife Service. 

She settled in the Roundstone area of Connemara in 2012 where she paired up with a male. In 2014, the pair laid eggs at a nest in a remote site but the eggs failed to hatch chicks successfully. Both birds were on the point of nesting again this year at the same nest when tragedy struck. 

In a statement, NPWS Conservation ranger Dermot Breen said: “This is a very disheartening incident as the killing of this breeding female has effectively put an end to any breeding attempt of this incredible species in West Galway for at least another five years.

“To see the female lying dead on her nest was a very sad and sickening sight especially with the knowledge that she would have been due to lay two eggs. Historically up to 14 pairs were known to have bred in the Connemara region up 1838. Connemara lost its White-tailed Eagles shortly after this with the introduction of poison. It’s deeply frustrating to see history repeating itself.

“I’ve encountered no negative feedback from any local farmers with regard to the presence of the eagles over the last three years. Many landowners would ask how the eagles were doing and would tell me if they had been lucky enough to see them in the locality.

“The loss of this female is also a great loss to tourism in the area. Connemara is world renowned for being an area of unspoilt beauty. Unfortunately this illegal and irresponsible action is likely to tarnish Connemara’s green image, an area that relies heavily on tourism.”

Speaking today, Project Manager with the Golden Eagle Trust Dr Allan Mee said: “Although all losses impact the project, the loss of this female is very difficult to take.”

“She and her mate had been resident in Connemara for the last four years and it was only a matter of times before they produced chicks. It is likely the nest site they chose had been used by White-tailed Eagles in historical times, so losing this pair is devastating.

“The female’s mate is one of our satellite tagged eagles (male Star) who has travelled the length and breadth of Ireland several times before settling in Connemara. It’s tragic to see him lose his mate just on the point of nesting.

“We hope that all farmers and farming organisations will rightly condemn this practice which has no place in today’s supposedly more enlightened environment.”

Approximately this time last year a juvenile White-Tailed Eagle was found starved to death after being shot with a shotgun. 

The bird was one of the first of its kind to be purposely bred in Ireland when it was born in Clare in 2013.

Its short life - a mere seven months since flying the nest - was cruelly cut short. It was riddled with between 40 and 50 shotgun pellets and left for dead for several weeks before it succumbed to its injuries.