City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Sea Eagle Chicks Arrive on East Coast

By edg - Posted on 05 July 2010

A quarter of a century ago the first wild bred, white-tailed sea eagle chick - previously extinct in the UK - was hatched in the West of Scotland. Now the largest batch of white-tailed eagle chicks yet has arrived in the East of Scotland.

Now in its fourth year, the East Scotland Sea Eagle reintroduction programme is a partnership between RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland.

Part of Scotland's Species Action Framework, which sets out a strategic approach to species management in Scotland, the partners are reintroducing the species, Britain’s largest bird of prey, to Eastern Scotland.

The long-term hope is to help the population to thrive and restore the birds across the full extent of their former range, where they disappeared in the early 1900s due to habitat loss and human persecution.

Chunky chicks fly in by plane

After travelling from nests in Norway on Friday, 19 chicks were welcomed at Edinburgh Airport by Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham. The batch is the largest since the programme began and is the result of a good breeding season in the Scandinavian country.

Following their arrival, the young birds were taken to purpose-built aviaries at a secret location in Fife, where they will remain until they are strong enough to fledge.

Affectionately known as ‘the flying barn door’ due to its massive 8 foot wing span, Scotland's breeding population of white-tailed sea eagles has risen to its highest number since the reintroduction programme began on the west coast more than 30 years ago.

A 2009 survey showed that there are 46 territorial breeding pairs and probably over 200 individual white-tailed eagles in the country. The species is now being spotted in eastern Scotland too.

“Since the project started in 2007 we’ve had over 2000 sightings of these wonderful birds," says Claire Smith, RSPB Scotland sea eagle project officer. "Our chicks from 2009 have been spotted across North East Scotland, as well as Fife, Angus, and Tayside, while earlier this year, much to the delighted of visitors to our Vane Farm nature reserve, 3 sea eagles spent three months roosting on islands on Loch Leven. We’re also thrilled to learn our populations are starting to mix, not only with birds in the west of Scotland, but also those who are part of the Irish reintroduction.“

Smith spotted a sea eagle over Livingston while driving along the motorway.

Susan Davies, SNH’s director of policy and advice, who was also present to see the eagles touchdown said: “There’s always a thrill in the air when the young eagles arrive in eastern Scotland. We are so grateful to the Norwegian people for helping us boost our numbers of these fantastic birds. These new eaglets will quickly adapt and will soon become part of the biodiversity of eastern Scotland, giving pleasure to locals and tourists alike.”

Charlie Taylor, for the Forestry Commission Scotland Tay Forest District, added: “Managing forests to provide a wide range of habitats is an important part of the Commission’s work and being able to contribute to the successful reintroduction of these awe inspiring birds really is something special. We are very pleased to welcome this year’s new arrivals and hope that they take to life in the east of Scotland.”