White-tailed eagle takes flight in Ireland

DUBLIN Thu Aug 16, 2007 3:34pm BST

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - An eagle that disappeared from Ireland more than 100 years ago took flight again on Thursday as part of a scheme to reintroduce native birds of prey to the country.

Ireland's Environment Minister released six young White-tailed Eagles, one of the world's largest birds of prey, into a national park in the southwestern county of Kerry.

"These eagles had pride of place in the cultural and natural heritage of Ireland for hundreds of years but due to trapping and shooting in the 19th and early 20th centuries they became extinct," Minister John Gormley said.

The eagle chicks came from Norway and were flown into Kerry in June. Some 15 chicks will be brought into the region annually over the next five years as part of the reintroduction.

Organizers hope the project will replicate the success of a similar scheme to reintroduce Golden Eagles, driven out of Ireland by zealous gamekeepers and eager collectors in the early 1900s.

Adult Golden Eagles were brought to Donegal in northwestern Ireland in 2001 and a Golden Eagle chick was born to one of the reintroduced pairs in April this year -- the first to be born on Ireland's shores for nearly a century.

Kerry's rugged Atlantic coastline is an ideal habitat for the White-tailed Eagle, which likes to feed on the carcasses of dead seals and porpoises.

The bird has a wing span of up to 2.5 meters (8 feet) and in neighboring Britain is confined mainly to the northwestern tip of Scotland.

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