Killing Norwegian Eagles in Kerry

 Posted by on October 23, 2010  Add comments
Oct 232010

The recent TV documentary on the reintroduction of eagles into Irish society reminded me of the most bizarre story I’ve read this year.

A few months back the Norwegian Ambassador to Ireland, Öyvind Nordsletten, pleaded with the people of Kerry, politely mind you, to stop fucking killing their eagles.

As pleas go it caught the eye. It was a page stopper for readers as they say in the newspaper industry.

Norway flew the eagles (first class, Air France) to Ireland three years back for breeding purposes because birds of prey had become about as rare in Hibernia as an Anglo Irish Bank executive peering forlornly out of the back window of a Paddy Wagon, often referred to as a mother’s heart in Mexico City – because there’s always room for one more.

Up to 2007 the raptors, refered to as ‘iolaire sùil na grèine’ or eagle of the sunlit eye, were extinct on this island as they were hunted down, poisoned, shot and had their eggs stolen, in, you guessed it, Kerry, last century.

Leaving aside that Nordsletten may as well have been pleading with Hamas to build a synagogue on the Gaza Strip, the question remains. Why would anyone want to kill these magnificent creatures?

Most people accept that the golden eagle, the osprey, unless in Thomond Park, the white-tailed eagle, red kite and goshawk would be a most welcome introduction to any countryside.

The ultimate bird of prey, they swoop down on their quarry from altitude, like Roy Keane over Alfie Haaland, and snaffle him. They’re intelligent creatures also as their first instinct is to attack and pluck the eyes out of anyone involved with Fianna Fáil, Jedward, Boyzone, Westlife or Chris de Burger.

As said, most people are enthralled by iolaire sùil na grèine. However, in Kerry they have a different view of eagles and life in general. In the Kingdom, on spying an eagle, they find themselves overwhelmed with a sudden impulse to murder it.

So why would anyone want to kill the glorious Haliaeetus albicilla you ask. Freud, who had opinions on Paddy and his various eccentricities, might be the man to answer that. However, it is my view the above behaviour is the ultimate outcome of our ambiguous attitude toward first cousins sleeping with first cousins.

You can get away with this lark for a few generations but somewhere down the line a batch will emerge with that strange light in their eyes.

Moreover, this batch will want to settle in Kerry where they will be plagued with voices in their heads, and these voices, not unlike the voices Jack Nicholson was hearing in The Shining, will compel them to kill eagles – for no other reason than they exist – and to elect Jackie Healy-Rae & sons.

We saw an example of this slacked-jawed, craven ignorance in 2007 when the birds arrived in Ireland from Norway. Our feathered friends from the Land of the Midnight Sun were greeted with a lot of media interest on their return to our shores from their ten-decade exile.

However, around 100 farmers were protesting at their arrival at Kerry airport. I can understand protests at war criminals or Louis Walsh arriving in the country, but I ask you; what breed of arsehole would converge at an airport to protest at the arrival of eagle chicks?

Who organised the protest? How did they convince the farmers to march?. Were they handing out “Down with eagle chicks – they’re quare looking hawks” car stickers in Killarney? Honk your horn if you hate eagles – and that sort of thing.

Over the last three years at least 13 of the 55 eagles reintroduced into Ireland have been poisoned in the Kingdom. It is believed that one bird was shot in Northern Ireland – probably by a retired UDA or Provo type pining for the good old days when a man could lend a purpose to his life murdering Catholics and Protestants.

Meantime, south of the border down Kerry way, the farmers – tormented with those voices in their heads – had convinced themselves that the birds will attack their lambs. Some, outrageously, warned that the eagles will snatch babies from prams.

Ah yes, they’re terrors for snatching bairns from cradles are those Norwegians birds – and exposing themselves to elderly nuns.

Ireland is believed to have the lowest range of breeding birds of prey of all EU countries. During the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries most of our birds of prey were killed, mostly in Kerry, and became extinct around 1910.

The majority of the 55 birds introduced in 2007 have survived, thankfully. How much this has to do with the fact that the Gardai are now investigating the spate of poisonings is anyone’s guess.

Commentating on the eagle slayings, the Norwegian ambassador to Ireland said that he hopes that the poisoning will stop – diplomatic language for saying we are a shower of depraved trolls with no respect for man nor beast.

“We in Norway are deeply concerned about the situation and hope that all can be done to make such poisoning illegal. We hope that the unfortunate practice of poisoning will be ended so that this magnificent eagle, that we are very familiar with in Norway, can once again be part of the Irish landscape,” he said.

Maybe Nordsletten should travel down to Kerry to voice his protest in person. He’ll notice when he crosses the border into the county that all the radio stations, no matter how much you fiddle with the dial, are continuously playing the soundtrack from The Twilight Zone or Deliverance.

He’ll also notice that the eagles are soaring over Killarney National Park because the vast majority of people in the Kerry want to see these magnificent birds inhabit their landscape for the first time in a century.

However, there are a few in their midst spreading irrational fear and ignorance despite the fact that no lambs have been attacked by eagles since they arrived here in 2007.

RTE ran an excellent documentary of the White-tailed eagle, also known as the sea eagle, last week, but will they survive in the Kingdom or will a tiny minority of gombeens be allowed to disgrace us in front of the world once again?

Kerry – where eagles dare.

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  34 Responses to “Killing Norwegian Eagles in Kerry”

Comments (34)

    Seconds you just about summed it up.We in Ireland are a disgrace in the ignorance and cruelty we inflict on the creatures who share this island with us.Indeed cruelty here is regarded as “sport”.A politician can destroy the economy and the lives of millions with only token protests but try banning cruelty and you will virtually have war on the streets.The plight of the Irish hare is another example,it is an endangered species but still hundreds of them are kidnapped from their few remaining habitats each year to be terrified and killed in rings for the entertainment of inbred knuckle draggers.The stupidity of the poisoners of the birds of prey is that in their stupidity and retardation they cant see that those creatures are actually of benefit to sheep farmers in that they prey on the two species that that cause most damage to new born lambs ie hooded crows and magpies.Another thing our wildlife law enforcment is like most everything else in Ireland a bad joke.Crimes against wildlife is as common as rain in Ireland but those engaged in it have little to fear from the law.And now in the next few weeks the wildlife abuse season will get into full swing in rural ireland with packs of vicious hounds followed by retards barging around the countryside tearing our beautiful fauna to bits.One of the last places in the world where this is allowed.Anyhow back to the Eagles and other prey birds.I hope they survive but I have doubts (so far nobody has been prosecuted which means the murderers are still operating) And what a total shame and national disgrace if they vanish again.I have seen one of them and my god what an awesome sight.


    Quotes from two of histories greats relevant to the above.Gandhi..”you can tell how civilised a nation is by the way it treats its animals”…And Chales Darwin…”At the bottom of the evolutionary scale is the savage who can only feel empathy for his family on the next level is the man who can feel empathy for his own kind and at the most evolved level is the man who feels empathy for all living beings”.Chales Darwin Descent of Man.


    Wel spotted Seconds out, Fianna Fáil members are the most sought after prey of those beautiful birds!

    The Norwegians should, if they had any sense of the law, sue the Kingdom for every last cent they have received from the coffers of the EU. They have actually received more EU cash than any other county in Ireland. No one, apart perhaps from the Rae family; and of course the idiot solicitor and former FF Minister for Justice John O’Donoghue, (zero tolerance!) will have much of a clue about where it all actually went.

    The unfortunately named ‘Birds of Prey’ in Kerry translates, in the weird kerry-brain as meaning they should be preyed upon; fucking idiots.

    Them Norwegians should be told a few home truths.


    all they want in kerry is shitehawks.
    which they are happy to elect,


    saw that progamme on RTE last week. It was very good tv. What is the penalty if you are caught? Or is there any….?


    Someone wrote yesterday that legislation has been passed to make the poisoning of wild animals illegal – we needed legislation for that?


    Bit harsh to be tarring all Kerry people with the same brush.

    Not all of us are sheep-farmers, not even all of the sheep-farmers are poisoners. Some of us are happy to have there eagles here.

    But never let facts get in the way of a good prejudicial generalisation, it would make for less interesting posts.


    Bock, good on you. I live side by side with the sea eagles and what beauty they radiate as the soar in circles high above the mountains. Eagles allso attack foxes. Nearby there is an eagles nest and weighs about two thousand kilo. it is perched on top of a pine tree. The curious thing is that a parasite deforms some pine trees causing the tree to grow a platform like top. Perfect for the eagles to build nests. The nests are built and maintained and are as old as the life span of a human. We do not disturb the birds and the where abouts of breeding nests are secret. Nearby are ospreys and king eagles. If you find a dead eagle it is mandatory to bring the animal to the police station as it belongs to the crown. The animal is sent to a vetinary station for analys. The same goes for bears, elks, sphinx ( a rather large cat) wolves. There is reverence and respect for these animals.


    Ben – You must have missed this bit:

    “the vast majority of people in the Kerry want to see these magnificent birds inhabit their landscape for the first time in a century”


    Charles that sounds fantastic there where you live.By the way do you know what the penalty is there if anybody harms those birds or animals?.


    @Bock. Very good piece. As always there is a solution but we don’t do solutions in Ireland.
    Knock 10% off the Single Farm Payment to every farmer in Kerry for every Golden Eagle found poisoned in Kerry. That would soon put a stop to it. Why you might say? Because those are the kind of solutions that work.

    “Do you want to keep the keep the money or would you prefer to poison eagles”. Kerry should make its mind up.


    good point when you think its probably the free money they got from the EU that they used to pay for the poison.Even more so when you think one of the EU payments called REPS is supposed to be for conservation of wildlife and their habitat.


    Why the assumption that it’s just Farmers laying the poison.


    William, We have some rednecks who hunt wolves from snow scooters and lately a few were caught and put on trial and received custodial sentences of up to three years. These are hunters who are ostracised by the larger hunting community. I live in an area where we have everything except bears. If wolves attack sheep then there is compensation by the government. Killing such beautiful birds is unheard of. I once saw an eagle strike a fish and the sunlight at evening stuck the silver belly of the fish as the great eagle firmly grasped it and carried it away still moving to it’s chicks. When you see such a sight you just stand in awe.


    That’s must have been some sight Charles. I believe it will take a few years before the eagles start breeding. If they are left alone then what you describe could become a more common sight.


    Just when we take some joy in the introduction of this awe inspiring species, Out come the barbarians with their boxload of phisogeries.
    There are a lot of wild deer around the area I live in and while I appreciate to some degree the damage to forsetry and fencing I believe its a manageable situation and deserves humane and appreciative skills from people living in the area.
    However some neanderthal came up with the notion that the deer would mate with cattle and donkeys etc and produce some mutant beast that would eat our children ! This grew legs, even reached media coverage and drew all manner of lunatics with rifles taking unskilled pot shots at the deer, Leaving them maimed and dying slowly from blood loss and infection.
    Eventually it was stopped but its seriously frightening what people believe. ( The bit about eating children was my own embellishment ! the rest is true )
    COR Just as the temp drops, Here you are back with your wonderful tales of where you live, Welcome, Hope you endure the winter yet again with us !


    I guard the passage way to the mountains and am a friend of all eagles. They tell me of the goings on from the valleys below. Snow has come,my wood burner aglow. The horses are stabled and even the cats have pulled down the blinds and booked the beds of the twins to endure the dark and cold. My wooly socks are mended and my great duffle awaits my corpulence. Bilbo Bagger has not come and the light is waneing by the day. The lake outside will freeze and the hunters will place the remains of elks and boars and deer on the ice so as to help the sea eagles. This they do every year and it is then I get to see them. The hunters know where their nests are located but not a word to anyone. Sad that the Irish children are denied seeing an eagle on a clear day as it patrols the skies of the west coast of Ireland. Early contact with nature puts many on the path to a life with rich rewards.


    So are you all sure that eagles don’t attack lambs, then, or do you just expect sheep farmers to allow their livelihoods to be destroyed? I saw that programme too Seconds, and once they started discussing the particular issue of poisoning and eagles taking lambs, I knew straight away from the angle they took on it, that this was a propoganda piece, and sure enough there it was in the credits at the end, a National Parks & Wildlife Service logo – i.e. they practically wrote the script. And their evidence that eagles don’t take lambs? A carefully worded sentence along the lines that there are “no documented cases”. What a laugh. As if sheep farmers are going to be out on the mountain with video cameras and clipboards.

    Now, I don’t know it for a fact, but I can’t see why an eagle wouldn’t take a lamb, its easy meat. In any case farmers may have to leave out poison to deal with ravens and grey crows (these birds definitely take lambs).So, if the authorities want to bring in these species, they should compensate farmers in some way, unless they can demonstrate definitively that the eagles turn their noses up at lamb. Its a simple question of fairness, I can’t see how none of you can see that. I understand that it is important to give widlife room to live their lives, but you shouldn’t expect a small number of people trying to earn a modest living to shoulder the burden created. Nor is it fair to portray them as neanderthals when they take the only steps available to them to protect their livelihood.


    EssoDee. It was a programme directed toward the poisoning of a depleting species, So there had to be a specific leaning in that direction, Hardly propaganda.
    Man who makes his livlihood from the rearing and production of animals such as sheep and cattle which are the primary animals produced in Ireland for consumption, Have the obligation to protect their investment , Entirly for their own benefit, It is not common for Golden Eagles to attack lambs, They are far more likely to be the prey of foxes, dogs and grey crows, There are very specific times in a lambs life that they are highly vulnerable to attack, This is at birth and shortly after and if they are sick and weak.

    It is the lazy attitude of their owners / carers / farmers that they are exposed to prey, Sheep are worth more in headage payments than they are as a food product, Even after the introduction of headage payments from the EU , It remains uncommon for sheep to be housed during lambing, Leaving vulnerable animals to give birth on open ground leaves them open to the laws of nature and is not the fault of predators, Who are designed to follow those laws.

    It is highly unlikely that a Golden Eagle will kill a healthy lamb who has no scent of the birthing process, Whereas a fox or dog will prey on that lamb.
    Is it reasonable to make a ” modest living ” out of a product without the investment required for that product, Nobody can change the natural environment to suit their own needs while ignoring the contra indications.

    Golden Eagles were indiginous to this Country long before Farmers had access to such barberous, lazy and ignorant methods of control such as poison.


    Norma I agree with your post except on one point, that is regarding fox predation on lambs.I have never met anyone who has seen a fox killing a lamb nor has it ever been filmed.All the wildlife experts whose works I have seen have concluded that the only lambs foxes pick up are stillborn ones abandoned by their mother.A farmer friend here who kept track of the number of lambs he thought he was losing to foxes who now brings his sheep into sheds for lambing found that the number of stillborn lambs he has now roughly corresponds to the amount he thought he was losing to the foxes.And EssoDee as far as I am aware Ravens are also a protected bird.


    further to my post above Ravens are indeed a protected bird.Anybody harming them is also commiting a crime.


    Thanks William, Good point, Although I have seen foxes on 2 occasions take a lamb at birth, On both occasions they were twin births, Which probably indicated longer birthing times hence more exposure.
    It has always pissed me off no end that farmers take it for granted that animals cope with those times on their own with no human protection or assistance should they get into difficulty from prey ot otherwise, They seem to think the have some god given right to offer little or no shelter and yet reap the rewards.

    The Golden Eagles pose no threat to stock that are responsibly farmed, In fact they are of assistance, Especially in control of the grey crow population.


    Hi EssoDee,

    First of all, let me declare an interest here. Nothing professional but I have a huge interest in the various projects that are (luckily still) ongoing.

    I study ornithology although I must confess to being something of an amateur.

    Two eagle species have been re-introduced to Ireland. The Golden Eagle in Donegal and the White-Tailed in Kerry. Both were made extinct at the end of the 19th century and (in the case of the Golden Eagle) the early 20th century in this country after thousands of years of residency.

    Now, with regard to lambs. First of all, both species rely on carrion for approximately 75-85% of their food. Therefore any carrion laced with poisoned bait will expose them hugely regardless of the intended target (crows, foxes, etc).

    Juvenile White-Tailed Eagles tend to rely on carrion almost exclusively, although they will take the occasional rabbit, hare or smaller rodent.

    Adult White-Tails learn to fish. A joy to behold. They also prey on crows (the bane of the farmers life) as well as seabirds.

    There are approximately 3,000 breading pairs in residence in Norway (lightly totals are approximately 10,0000). Despite some 2 million sheep in Norway no one has documented a lamb being taken as prey.
    That is not to say that there has never been such an occurrence. Weak and sick lambs have been targeted (in Scotland) but one has to consider that any predator will seek out sick and weak prey (as do top predators on the savanna in Africa) but this is indeed a rare event.

    Don’t forget that a new born lamb weighing 8 to 12 pounds represents something of a struggle for a raptor weighing 7 to 10 pounds.

    As the White-Tailed Eagles mature fully and their fishing skills become more adept, they rely more and more on this source of food.

    With regard to the Golden Eagle, their main source of food is also carrion but they tend to specialize on hares, rabbits, mice, martens, foxes and of secondary importance are crows (and other larger birds). Indeed, Donegal farmers are beginning to realise that the numbers of hooded crows are declining in the region and I’m fairly sure that the eagles have a lot to do with this. Although the Golden Eagle is smaller and lighter than it’s White Tailed cousin it has been recorded to prey on a new born lambs. However the chances of me being killed by lightning are about the same.

    Irish farmers need to wake up. Yes, I watched the RTÉ documentary series and found it both uplifting and depressing at the same time. The one thing that struck me was an interview with a representative for he Kerry farmers that was interviewed by the programme.

    In the interview, he prevaricated about the benefit of returning a (once) native species of raptor to the region and went on to say “sure, what’s in it for us?”.

    I was dumbfounded by such coarse ignorant crass.

    I know that most farmers are responsible and that most farmers will obey the law in relation to poisoning. However there is a cadre of farmers in Ireland who don’t give a fuck. “adding the ha’penny to the pence” as Yeates said comes to mind.

    How should an Irish person feel when the first Golden Eagle born in Ireland for over a 100 years was killed by an idiot Sligo farmer who boasted about his exploits in the local pub.



    Hi All

    First of all, in case its not obvious enough, I grew up on a sheep farm, so, yes a degree of bias, but I’m capable of being pretty objective usually. Just to get back on a few points:

    Norma, hill sheep are bred to live on the mountain, if you bring them in for lambing, there is a huge increase in susceptibility to disease, the whole flock could be wiped out.

    William, Norma has it more or less right about foxes, but you will get the occasional rogue who will kill healthy lambs in large numbers. My own attitude would be that you can expect some lambs to be taken every year and not get too upset , but if you get a rogue fox, you simply have to get him or you won’t have any lambs left. As for ravens, they don’t need the protection of the state, they are too clever generally speaking to come a cropper at the hands of mere humans, but when you’ve come across a healthy ewe who has fallen on her back and had her eyes pecked out, or a newborn live lamb who has had its entire abdomen removed, well, you can see why it might get personal. The reason foxes ravens etc go for twins over singles is that the mother finds it much more difficult to protect 2 newborn lambs.

    Niall, I don’t really know anything about eagles, but I do know that a new born lamb is nowhere near 8 or 10 pounds at birth, that’s children you’re thinking of! A 2 pounder would be a fine specimen. Are the eagles inclined to take ravens or grey crows by any chance? If they are, telling farmers about this might wel lput an end to poisoning. As for the “whats in it for us” attitude, I also find that horrible, but I would make a strong distinction between that and taking action to protect your livelihood.


    Hi EssoDee

    It is always a matter of embarrassment to me when I get my facts wrong. It would seem that I was misinformed in relation to the weight of a new-born lamb. My apologies. However my other points remain valid.

    I did say that grey (hooded) crows are preyed on by these raptors. I should have added that most other crow species (including ravens) as well as foxes (especially cubs) also form part of their diet.

    My main point however related to carrion. As I said, upwards of 85% of their diet comes from this source. Farmers who leave out meat bait lased with poison greatly endanger these birds and greatly damage the nascent reintroduction programmes. I would also like to point out that such practices are illegal as you will be fully aware.

    As you have said, you know little about eagles so I’d to direct you to this website.
    Here you can gain a better understanding of these magnificent birds and more importantly the aims and objectives of the reintroduction projects.

    Finally, see the following:

    “…The attitude and support of the local sheep men has been exemplary and the Golden Eagle Trust would again like to highlight this example of the co-operation between hill farming and wildlife interests. The farmers themselves have actually noted a decline in the number of attacks on newborn lambs, lambed outdoors, by nearby Hooded (Grey) Crows. And they acknowledge that the arrival of Golden Eagles into their glen has impacted on the previously unnaturally high number of Hooded Crows locally…”


    Niall…you are not wrong regarding the weight of new born lambs…they weigh 8 to 15 pounds depending on breed.


    Hi William, I had researched this and thought I had my facts straight however, I felt that I had to defer to EssoDee due the fact that they grew up on a sheep farm.


    Niall, thanks for those links. The experience of those farmers in Donegal should be communicated to farming organisations, who could put the word out that the eagle is the farmers friend. As for the weight issue, all I’ll say is beware of Wiki!


    Esso I dont need Wiki to tell me the weight of see I grew up on a farm as well.And as for 2LB lambs well either you got some breed of miniature sheep there or maybe you need to increase the food you are giving their mothers.


    William, are you telling me you didn’t get the info in post 26 from Wiki? And you’re also telling me that you have seen newborn lambs up to twice the weight of a normal size newborn child? If so, I’ll just have to take your word for it.


    EssoDee and William. I cant confirm the weight of a newborn lamb but a local sheep farmer told me yesterday that a lamb at time of market, @ 12 to 14 wks weighs on average about 16kgs, Thats about 35 lbs, So its quite concievable that a lamb would weigh about 8lbs upwards at birth.
    We had a few orphaned lambs over the years and if I had to hazard a guess I would say 8 to 10 lbs.

    EssoDee. With regard ” Mountain ” sheep, I agree they are genetically adapted to their environment and too much manhandling can interfere with that code of immunity, A neighbour of mine added some mountain sheep to his flock some years back and no amount of fencing would keep them in, I continually found them in my barn in the morning, Having sought shelter to lamb, They are creatures of highly developed foraging instinct so taken out of their natural environment they still find their own ways to adapt.


    I see this is an old post, but would still like to give you some information from the white-tailed-eagles “homeland”, Nordland, Norway.
    I live in Brønnøysund in the county of Nordland, with the dencest population of white-tailed-eagle anywhere in the world. When going for a hike it is as common to see the majestic eagles, as to not see them. Quite often they fly in pairs as the male and the female often hunt together.

    Now, to share some “close to personal experience”. Friends of ours live on a farm just over the hill here, and they have what’s called “stone age sheep”, a rather small breed with a slaughter weight of about 10 kg in the autumn. So, I’m guessing they are about 2kg at birth.

    And are these lambs killed by eagles? Yes, they are.
    When the sheep are lambing the eagles flock to a headland on the property and “have a ball”. Officially this is not happening, as the Norwegian government knows they would have to pay large amounts in compensation if they admitted to this happening. The official view is that “only mammals kill sheep”, thereby aquitting crows and ravens as well.

    This does not mean eagles are killing large numbers of lambs in Kerry. But, off course they can kill lambs. Even larger ones than 2kg.
    And I think this should be accepted. It’s sad for the lamb, the ewe, and the farmer. But it’s the price one has to pay for animals who have a natural part in the fauna to have it’s rightful place.

    I would also like to share a quoriosity with you:
    In 1932 3-year-old Svanhild was taken by an eagle and taken up a steep mountain side where she was found later in the same day by three mountain-climbers looking for her.
    She died at age 81 in 2010 and was known her whole life as “The girl who was taken by the eagle”. This may sound like b.s. but most people in Norway know the story.
    Svanhild Hartvigsen remembered waking up on the hillside and fighting the eagle off by throwing rocks at it.
    It caused a sensation, and many found it hard to believe, saying she would have been too heavy. She was weighed and found to weigh 12kg.
    Is this story true? I don’t know. But it’s hard to explain how a 3-year-old could end up on a mountain side so steep, they needed climbers to get her down.

    This was in a Norwegian paper when she died.


    Hello as a kerry lad I would not condone poisoning there is always a danger that the carcass may end up transferring its toxicity to the local water supply. After all our water is bad enough with effluent overspills.
    Shooting is reasonable to get rid of recognised vermin such as crows, foxes and anything flying that you are not quite sure what it is. Too be sure ,too be sure!!


    So Richard, you do not condone the poisoning of White Tailed Eagles but you do recommend shooting them. Have I got that right?

    I read that another protected raptor, a Hen Harrier was also shot by some knuckle-dragging clown near Waterville within the past few weeks.

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