Pärnu County sea eagle chicks die, cause as yet unknown

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A sea eagle - Merikotka in Estonian - in flight. Source: ERR

Two sea eagle chicks born at the end of April in a southwest Estonian national park have died, regional daily Pärnu Postimees reports, with poisoning or avian flu cited by experts as possible causes.

The chicks, born on April 28 and 30 to a pair of Sea Eagles nesting at the Matsalu National Park, on the Pärnu County/Lääne County line, were reported dead Wednesday and Thursday this week, Postimees reports (link in Estonian), while their death spells the effective end of the breeding season for the species this year in Estonia.

The nesting pair, named Eve and Eerik by those monitoring them, have a closed circuit camera set up near the nest.

Since avian flu cases have recently been reported in Estonia, with larger wild birds, primarily mute swans, having succumbed to the virus, one theory is that the chicks were fed carrion from that source, or vectored via small mammals which had fed on the dead birds first and which the sea eagle parents had caught as prey, though food itself is not in short supply this year, experts say.

Urmas Sellis, a member of the eagle club (Kotkaklubi – link in Estonian), said that hopefully the dead chicks will be retrieved from the nest and sent for analysis to ascertain the true cause of death; a similar incident in Latvia saw Sea Eagle chicks die due to lack of parental attention after rival birds had entered the territory and required fending off.

The sea eagle, more properly the White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), is resident in Estonia year round, in small numbers, with protected areas like Matsalu providing sufficient cover from human activity to nest happily.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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