Minister of State Malcolm Noonan TD today announced that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is ready to move forward with the reintroduction of the Osprey to Ireland in summer 2023.
Osprey are a magnificent fish-eating bird of prey that became extinct in Ireland many years ago. The NPWS has been researching and preparing for the potential reintroduction of these birds for a number of years and now expects to reach a significant milestone with the arrival of the first 12 Osprey chicks in July. The reintroduction programme aims to establish a viable, free-ranging Osprey population that eventually breeds in Ireland.
The project has been led by a highly experienced NPWS team, headed up by Divisional Managers Dr Phillip Buckley and Eamonn Meskell, who also led and delivered the ongoing and highly successful White-tailed Eagle Reintroduction Programme in Ireland. The experience gained and knowledge acquired during the Eagle programme will be of great benefit to the Osprey Reintroduction Programme.
Commenting on the preparations for the chicks’ arrival, Minister Noonan said:
“The NPWS plans to bring 50-70 Osprey chicks to Ireland from Norway over a five-year period. NPWS has drawn on international expertise and learning from around Europe and North America in the development of this programme. In particular, the project has the direct involvement of colleagues from Norway and UK, who are not only top Osprey experts, but who have led and supported other key species-reintroduction programmes in Europe. The NPWS has great expertise from its introduction of the white-tailed eagle and the same, highly experienced team will now put their knowledge to good use as we embark on the reintroduction of the Osprey.”
As part of a programme of events celebrating National Biodiversity Week, Minister Noonan visited some of the nesting platforms currently in place for migratory Osprey who sometimes visit Ireland. New nesting platforms are being erected in Ireland’s Southeast, on a key migratory route for Osprey between Northern Europe and Africa. They will be in place and ready for the arrival of the chicks this summer.
NPWS Divisional Manager Eamonn Meskell continued:
“In addition to the holding pens at the release sites, artificial eyries will also be constructed in the release area. The details of construction of holding pens and artificial next sites, feeding and care of birds, their transport and release are based on extensive experience with other Osprey reintroduction programmes, and with the White Tailed Eagle reintroduction programmes in Ireland over nine years. Once the chicks arrive in Ireland we’ll be monitoring their progress and adapting their feeding regime to build towards their eventual release over the summer.”
Dr Philip Buckley, NPWS Divisional Manager for the South West Division said:
”We are extremely grateful to the authorities and colleagues in Norway for supplying the young Ospreys, and for their expertise which is enabling this landmark conservation programme to happen. Likewise to the farmers and landowners involved and also to many others from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Britain, elsewhere in Europe and indeed internationally who are providing expertise or helping with this work; their help is critical and much appreciated.”
Ospreys became extinct in Ireland 150 years ago. They have a long heritage in Ireland, with several place names around Ireland, particularly in Munster, referencing the bird. For example, Killarney National Park is home to a site known as Osprey Rock at Loch Léinn pointing to the bird’s history in Ireland, particularly close to rivers and lakes as it hunts for fish. While the programme may take some time for the species to begin breeding again, the reintroduction of this fish-eating apex predator will provide significant insights into the health of the Irish ecosystem, and its waters over time.
Notes to the editor
Photos of Osprey attached for use.
NPWS Project heads can be made available for interview on request.
Key information about Osprey (source: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds RSPB)
What they eat
Feather colour: Brown Cream/buff White
Leg colour: Blue
Beak: Black Medium length Hooked Powerful Chunky
Natural habitats: Marine and intertidal Wetland
The most important habitat requirement is the presence of large watercourses such as rivers, lakes or coastal areas. This ensures an ample supply of medium sized fish near the water surface for them to eat.
Clean unpolluted water is highly beneficial to them.
In areas providing high quality habitat and good food supplies you can get many congregating together.
The osprey is a specialist feeder, relying on medium-sized fish, both marine and fresh-water. The bird will fly above the water’s surface to locate fish, sometimes gliding and soaring up to 70 metres high.
Ospreys are believed to be largely monogamous, and strongly faithful both to nest and mate.
The nest, called an eyrie, is generally built on the top of a large tree, usually a conifer, but deciduous trees are also used. In parts of their range, ospreys may nest on cliff ledges, coastal rocks, buoys and electricity pylons.
These long-lived birds are mainly site faithful and some nests have been in use for some 20 years, with the birds adding to it each year. The nest is a large structure made of branches and twigs, lined with small twigs, moss, bark and grass. It takes both birds 14-21 days to complete a new nest, which at completion can be 120-150 cm across and 50-60 cm deep. As more material is added in later years, the nest can grow to a depth of 150-200 cm.
In the second half of April, the female lays two or three eggs at 1-3 day intervals and incubates them for 37 days per egg. Even though chicks hatch a few days apart, aggression and dominance by the older chick is rare. This asynchronic hatching is typical for most birds of prey.