Despite the sad stories, the truth is that for centuries we in Ireland have been gaining species at a far faster rate than we’ve been losing them. We exterminated the last of our native golden eagles about 100 years ago and our white-tailed or sea eagles shortly before that. About 100 years earlier another large bird of prey, the red kite, became extinct in Ireland. Today, all three species are the subject of re-introduction programmes - golden eagles in Donegal, white-tailed eagles in Kerry and red kites in Wicklow. Unfortunately, several of the young birds that have been introduced have been shot or poisoned.
While this was going on two more large birds of prey, the buzzard and the goshawk, which had become extinct, re-colonised the country without human help. So far, goshawks only breed here in very small numbers. Buzzards, however, seem to have arrived in two waves: one into the north of the country from Scotland, and another into the east from Wales. They have spread rapidly and are now found in most counties.
At about the same time that the corn bunting became extinct, a small white heron called the little egret arrived from France and it also has multiplied and spread.
The story of the greater spotted woodpecker is remarkable. They became extinct in Ireland around 250 years ago, at the time when the last of our large native forests were being felled. Conservation organisations were working on a plan to reintroduce them to selected woodlands when they suddenly re-appeared without human help. In 2009 at least thirteen pairs bred successfully in the east of the country.
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