Page last updated at 05:09 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 06:09 UK

Rare white-tailed eagle spotted

The white-tailed sea eagle
The white-tailed sea eagle has a wingspan of more than two metres

Ireland's largest bird of prey - which has been described as a "flying barn door" - has been spotted in the skies over Northern Ireland.

The white-tailed sea eagle has a wingspan of over two metres. It was sighted in Counties Down, Armagh and Tyrone.

The bird is one of 15 sea eagles released last summer in County Kerry as part of a project to reintroduce the eagles to Ireland.

The white-tailed eagle has brown body plumage with a conspicuously pale head and neck which can be almost white in older birds, and the tail feathers of adults are white.

In flight, it has massive long, broad wings with 'fingered' ends.

Its head protrudes and it has a short, wedge-shaped tail.

The white-tailed sea eagle population in Ireland was wiped out in the 19th century by illegal killing, but the species has now been reintroduced to the island.

Adam McClure, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds NI, said, "Most people are used to seeing buzzards soaring across the skyline, but sea eagles are roughly twice the size of a buzzard.

"Despite their size though, local farmers have nothing to fear, as these magnificent creatures mainly eat fish or scavenge on dead animals."

Dr Allan Mee, white-tailed sea eagle project officer, said: "It's amazing to think that the chicks reared and released in Kerry have made it all the way to Lough Neagh.

"We have also had a female eagle resident in the Limavady area for over a month and another, possibly the same bird, has been seen at Clea Lake in County Down and near Oxford Island, County Armagh.

"Northern Ireland is obviously proving attractive for sea eagles."

RSPB are especially encouraging residents along the southern shores of Lough Neagh to keep a look out for the bird as the last reports of the bird came from this area. To report a sighting contact RSPB on 028 9049 1547 or email adam.mcclure@rspb.org.uk or allanmee@goldeneagle.ie




SEE ALSO
Eagle lays first egg since 1912
11 May 05 |  Northern Ireland
Eagle flies high out of Belfast
06 Jul 04 |  Northern Ireland

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