Birdwatch News Archive
A reintroduced White-tailed Eagle dives for fish thrown from a boat in Skye. Photo: Dmgultekin (commons.wikimedia.org).
Last eagles fly free in Scotland
Posted on: 24 Aug 2012
The last six White-tailed Eagles to be released into Scotland have been set free on the Fife coast, marking the end of the RSPB's current reintroduction programme.
Over the past six years, 85 young birds have been released from a secret location in Fife in a bid to restore the species to its former range in eastern Scotland. Each bird has been fitted with radio and wing tags for project staff and the public to follow their progress.
The programme's partnership consists of RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland, and obtains additional financial support from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Fife and Rural Tayside LEADER 2007-2013 Programme. They now hope the birds will begin to produce young on Scotland’s east coast in the coming years.
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said: “We have been pleased to support this project. The return of 'sea eagles' to the skies of Scotland's east coast marks an important step in ensuring we now have a viable population of these magnificent birds. As well as fulfilling a role in our ecosystems, the birds are an important feature for our growing nature -based tourism industry.”
As well as helping return Britain’s largest birds of prey, the project has also strengthened links between Scotland and Norway, where the sea eagle population is strong. Since 2007, project staff have worked closely with Norwegian colleagues visiting nesting sites and selecting suitable chicks to use for the East Scotland reintroduction.
Once a regular sight in Scotland’s skies, White-tailed Eagle was driven to extinction in the Victorian era. It only returned to Britain following a successful reintroduction to the west of Scotland, on the island of Rum in 1975. Although the majority of the Scottish population remains on the west of the country, the species is now regularly spotted in eastern and central Scotland too.
Rhian Evans, RSPB Scotland's East Scotland Sea Eagle Project Officer, said: “It’s been an honour to care for this all important final batch of young eagles. These amazing birds have captured the hearts of people across the country. We owe a great deal to the volunteers, farmers, landowners, partners and of course the general public for their support and enthusiasm in helping us reach this important stage of the reintroduction. Over the past six years we’ve had around 3,000 reported sightings of birds involved in the project, including sightings from as far apart as Northumberland and Caithness. It’s also pleasing to see that the east and west coast populations are mixing, which is a good sign for the future.”
Charlie Taylor, who heads up the Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) team in the area where the eagles chicks acclimatised, said: “It’s been great to be involved in this programme and to have helped ensure that these magnificent birds have had the best possible start in Scotland. We look forward to seeing them more frequently in the years to come."
For more information on East Scotland Sea Eagle reintroduction programme, visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/eastscotlandeagles/default.aspx
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