Ospreys Breed In Ireland For First Time In Over 200 Years

Ospreys have been recorded breeding in Ireland for the first time in over 200 years, Ulster Wildlife has confirmed.

The pair has bred at a confidential nest site in Co. Fermanagh.

The bird of prey, which is also known as a fish hawk, has re-colonised naturally in the area.

The conservation charity believes that at least two, possibly three chicks have been hatched.

Ospreys have been recorded breeding in Ireland for the first time in over 200 years, Ulster Wildlife has confirmed


The historic discovery was made by Giles Knight, environmental farming scheme advisor with Ulster Wildlife.

Giles has been observing the breeding pair for the last three seasons while carrying out his local farm visits in the area.

“I have been keeping this news close to my chest for a long time to ensure the safety and welfare of these spectacular but vulnerable birds,” he said.

“Along with my son Eoin, I have watched the adults return to the same site since 2021, so you can imagine my excitement the moment that I saw three chicks and two adults this year,” he said.

“It was a rub-your-eyes, once-in-a-lifetime moment; an absolute highlight of my 30-year wildlife career – like finding long-lost treasure.

“With at least two of the chicks fledging this season, this is a huge conservation success story and indicates a healthy wetland ecosystem with plenty of suitable habitat and fish to bring this apex predator back to our skies and plunging into the Fermanagh Lakelands,” he added.


The medium-sized raptor, which is a protected species, has a white head with a distinctive brown eyestripe.

The bird is a fish-specialist, rarely eating anything else. It is usually found near water, including freshwater inland rivers and loughs as well as coastal estuaries and shorelines.

Ospreys are thought to have become extinct as a breeding bird in Ireland in the late 18th century due to systematic persecution.

Although often sighted on migration to and from sub-Saharan Africa, confirmed breeding in Ireland has been elusive until now, with Scotland their UK breeding stronghold.

Dr. Marc Ruddock from the Northern Ireland Raptor Study Group said the confirmation of ospreys breeding in Ireland is “truly brilliant news”.

He said that the location of the nest will remain confidential to avoid the birds being disturbed.

“Now these birds are back in Ireland and breeding successfully, it is critical that they are left in peace so their numbers can continue to grow by returning year on year to breed.

“We believe and hope that this could be the start of a raptor dynasty.

“It has been both encouraging and heartwarming to see the landowner, the local farming community and our partners welcome the ospreys’ return.

“Their ongoing support will enable future generations to enjoy these magnificent birds far into the future,” Dr. Ruddock said.

Across Ireland, osprey monitoring, the erection of nesting platforms, and planning for translocation and re-introduction programmes have been ongoing for many years.

Earlier this year, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien announced that the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) was to embark on a re-introduction project for the species.

It was planned to release chicks in the southeast of the country during the summer months.

(Source – Agriland – Aisling O Brien – 24/08/2023)

NPWS Releases Osprey Chicks As Part Of Reintroduction Programme

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) released the first osprey chicks as part of a new reintroduction programme over the weekend.

The programme was established to reintroduce the bird of prey to Ireland so that it becomes a viable, free-ranging population in the wild.

Over the next five years, the NPWS plans to reintroduce 50 osprey chicks as part of the programme.



Ospreys are fish-eating birds of prey which require habitats close to rivers, lakes or coastal areas which ensure a sufficient supply of fish.

The species is known to be monogamous and faithful to both their mate and their nest.

Ospreys are thought to have become extinct as breeding birds in Ireland over 150 years ago, but have continued to visit the island as part of their migratory pattern.

The release of the chicks follows confirmation that a breeding pair of ospreys and their chicks was discovered at a nesting site in Northern Ireland in recent weeks.

Ulster Wildlife said it was first time in over 200 years that ospreys have been recorded breeding naturally in Ireland.

Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan said the reintroduction programme is “an important tool in our efforts to conserve and restore nature”.

“We know from our European neighbours and our own firsthand experience that reintroduction programmes can bolster declining populations, gradually increasing them over time, while giving us valuable scientific insights into managing the return of this vulnerable species to our shores to plunge and dive for fish and eventually breed.

Minister of State, Malcolm Noonan

“Similar to the white-tailed eagle programme, the success of this initiative relies on the support of our farmers and landowners, who are working together with an experienced NPWS team, and I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to them for their contribution in bringing this spectacular bird back to our skies,” the minister said.

Philip Buckley, divisional manager with NPWS southwest, who heads up the osprey reintroduction programme said:

“In preparation for this programme, we drew on significant experience of countries around Europe who have reintroduced the osprey resulting in sizeable breeding populations over time.

“Identifying a suitable habitat which the birds will return to each year is key, and I would like to thank the farming community in the southeast for their engagement and co-operation.”

Similar to the white-tailed eagle reintroduction programme, the chicks are brought from Norway, and cared for at a secure location until they are ready to be released.

All of the chicks are satellite-tagged, so that NPWS staff can monitor their safety and welfare at this early stage, and their migratory pattern in the future.

(Source – Agriland – Aisling O Brien – 28/08/2023)

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