The Taoiseach has released white-tailed eagle chicks into the wild in Kerry as part of an initiative to reintroduce the species to Irish skies.
Micheál Martin set the sea chicks free in Tarbert, Co Kerry, yesterday with the guidance of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
A total of 16 eaglets are set to be released at three sites across Munster – Killarney National Park, Lough Derg and the lower Shannon Estuary – as part of the second phase of a long-term wildlife project aiming to re-establish a population of the species in Ireland.
Mr Martin said: “I have followed this project for a number of years and watching the eagles take to the skies is something that will last long in the memory.
“It is wonderful to see the development since the first introduction of chicks a number of years ago.
“These white-tailed eagles are magnificent birds which will play a key role in a functioning ecosystem.”
Mr Martin added that the project underlined Ireland’s commitment to implementing the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
“I am particularly grateful to the Norwegian authorities and colleagues for their collaboration,” he said.
The birds, once a striking element of Ireland’s natural landscape, were driven to extinction on the island as a result of human persecution.
Bringing back this lost species is a significant step in restoring the country’s natural heritage and biodiversity.
It also has the potential to contribute significantly to rural economies through eco-tourism opportunities.
In the first phase of the reintroduction programme, 100 young white-tailed eagles were released in Killarney National Park, Co Kerry.
As in previous years, the young eagles were collected under licence in Norway by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.
All the birds have been fitted with satellite tags in Ireland so that their progress can be followed. As they mature, the chicks will join and strengthen the Irish breeding population that has become established since the programme began in 2007.
Thirty-one young eagles from Norway have been released over the last two years. The additional 16 birds being released this year will bring the total to 47.