Minister of State Malcolm Noonan TD 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.”
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.