Newgrange Falconry in Co Louth has welcomed a new arrival, after a golden eagle chick hatched earlier this week.
The chick hatched over three days, fully emerging from its egg on Thursday morning.
The golden eagle is Ireland’s second largest bird of prey, and their wild population mainly resides in the north-west of the country due to an effort in Co Donegal to re-establish an Irish breeding population.
According to BirdWatch Ireland, golden eagles formerly bred in Ireland, however, they were extirpated in the 18th century.
Brian McCann, of the family-run falconry school in the Boyne Valley, started working with birds of prey as a hobby during his time in the fire service, however, demand from schools, events and tourism initiatives turned his pastime into a business venture around 16 years ago.
“I don’t think anyone should ever do falconry as a business, unless you really enjoy it firstly as a hobby,” Brian says.
Brian says he had always wanted a golden eagle, and the opportunity to bring one to his falconry school arose 14 years ago when he went to see a male bird which was for sale in Scotland, followed shortly by a trip to Co Waterford for a female bird.
“I had a look at her and said she’s gorgeous, so I had to have her!” Brian adds.
With a male and female, Brian was able to use artificial insemination to attempt to breed the raptors, and five years ago Newgrange successfully hatched their first artificially inseminated eagle chick.
One further successful hatch occurred a year later, but Brian seemed to be out of luck in the intervening three years, until a check of the eggs last month revealed a new arrival was on the way.
Thankfully, Brian says the new chick appears to be doing great: “Everything is going well, so fingers crossed.”
With his female Golden Eagle now approximately 28-years-old, and the male 33-years-old, Brian feels time may be running out on the breeding front, but he hopes Newgrange’s work in falconry lessons and exhibitions will be able to get back in action this summer, Covid restrictions allowing.
Brian adds that while it has been a hard year for the business due to the pandemic, he’ll be happy “as long as I can make enough money to keep the birds fed”.