White-tailed eagles have been born in the wild in Ireland for the first time in more than 100 years.
One chick hatched in a nest at Killarney national park in Co Kerry and at a site near Mountshannon, on the edge of Lough Derg, Co Clare another two have been born.
It is the first success of a six-year-old reintroduction programme which began with the release of young Norwegian eagles in Killarney. Dr Allan Mee, project manager for the Golden Eagle Trust which helped co-ordinate the project, said it was the next important step.
"The eagles have benefited from widespread support from communities and landowners, and their presence enhances rural economic values, especially wildlife tourism," he said.
"Special thanks also go to our friends in Norway who put their faith in the reintroduction programme in Ireland by providing birds and also supporting us through some difficult times."
The three chicks will be a huge boost to the programme after serious setbacks including the deaths of 27 of the more than 100 eagles released since 2007.
Project co-ordinators revealed that the Killarney chick was confirmed in the last few days after eggs were laid in late March. Two chicks were also confirmed born to a second pair of eagles, which nested for the first time last year in Clare.
Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, described the successful breeding as a momentous occasion.
"The birth of these chicks gives a great boost to the reintroduction project initiated by my Department in conjunction with the Golden Eagle Trust. The principal aim of this project is to re-establish a viable breeding population of white-tailed eagles and today's events are the big step towards achieving that goal," he said.
White-tailed eagles can live for 25-30 years and generally mate for life, with adult pairs remaining within their home range throughout the year. First-time breeders, especially young birds, often fail to raise chicks.