The number of white-tailed eagles in Scotland has reached 100 breeding pairs, a great success story for the re-introduction of the species. The birds, also known as sea eagles, were absent from the UK for nearly 60 years because of widespread persecution. The last known nesting attempt was on Skye in 1916 and in 1918 the last British white-tailed eagle was shot in Shetland.
A re-introduction programme began in 1975, under the management of RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage. The first young white-tailed eagles came from Norway and were released on the Isle of Rum in the Inner Hebrides. In total, 82 young eagles were released over a decade on Rum and the first wild chick fledged on the Isle of Mull in 1985. Further releases in Wester Ross followed between 1993 and 1998 and between 2007 and 2012 more birds were released in Fife, in partnership with the Forestry Commission. The programme also owes its success to the support of conservationists, landowners, farmers and the police, as well as numerous local community groups and organizations.
The 100th breeding pair has nested on Hoy in Orkney, becoming the first white-tailed eagles to nest in Orkney for 142 years. The white-tailed eagles on Hoy have been seen in the area every spring and summer since 2013, and are both thought to be young birds aged between four and five years.
Its great news that the breathtaking sight of a white-tailed eagle flying overhead in Scotland is no longer a thing of the past. The Isle of Mull is still probably the best place to see them, and we do usually have several sightings on our Mull cruises. Join us on our Magical Mull 6-night cruise on September 26th – a good time to spot golden and white-tailed eagles as the young birds have just left the nest.