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Plans Approved to Reintroduce White-Tailed Eagles to the UK

This week, plans have been approved to reintroduce white-tailed eagles to England in an attempt to revive the population 230 years after their extinction. 

A White-Tailed Eagle flying across the countryside.

CC by Yathin S Krishnappa (August 2012)

While many other birds of prey species have flourished across the country, white-tailed eagles have remained absent from English skies since the late eighteenth century and later became extinct in Scotland for the majority of the 1900s. Their demise was predominantly due to human hunting as during the Middle Ages, the birds were seen as a threat to livestock, in particular, lambs and sheep.  

However, in the last few years, white-tailed eagles have been successfully re-established in Scotland where they have once again begun to thrive. Following the project’s success, a licence has been granted to the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England to start a secondary reintroduction on the Isle of Wight in the hope of attracting the birds further south. 

In a recent statement, the Roy Dennis Foundation said, “Many parts of southern England are capable of supporting breeding and wintering white-tailed eagles, but the Isle of Wight was considered the most suitable location for the reintroduction. 

It is the last known breeding site of the species in southern England, is located close to highly suitable foraging areas in the Solent and surrounding estuaries, and has numerous potential nesting sites in woods and cliffs, and quiet areas for immature birds.” 

With an enormous wingspan of 2.4 metres, not only is the white-tailed eagle the largest bird of prey in Britain but it is also one of the most majestic, using its large wings to dart, swoop and dive across the coast and countryside to capture its prey. As such, many are excited about the return of these stunning birds to the Isle of Wight, a prime location for the reintroduction for several reasons.  

As well as offering an abundance of food in the form of carrion, fish and rabbits, this southern island is also the perfect place for the birds to nest and breed, with the mainland not far away. Consequently, as the eagles grow in numbers, it is hoped that they will eventually seek new homes further up the English coast. 

Currently, there are around 130 breeding pairs of white-tailed eagles in Scotland, the offspring of which will be used in the reintroduction on the Isle of Wight. Under the licence, chicks will be carefully collected from their nests in Scotland and translocated south, where they will be professionally cared for in a peaceful location for between three to four weeks. Once they are strong and healthy, the young birds will then be released on to the island, but food will continue to be provided until they have fully adapted to their new environment. 

The first release is scheduled for this summer (2019) but will continue gradually over the next five years in accordance with the Natural England licence that has been granted. Colour rings, radio transmitters and satellite tags will be used throughout the process to ensure that wildlife conservationists and scientists can keep track of the reintroduction and monitor the birds’ progress with the hope of encouraging other projects like this in the future to revive Britain’s endangered species.  

While it may still be some time before we see white-tailed eagles soaring across English skies, there are plenty of bird species to look out for in the meantime. Visit our blog to discover ten facts about British birds or check out our stunning range of pheasant gifts today to treat the bird lovers in your life!