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16 Sea eagle chicks arrive in Scotland for release

30/06/2011 14:41:49

JUST FLOWN IN: One of the sea eagles at Edinburgh airport

VIP welcome for fifth year of East Coast sea eagle reintroduction projects

July 2011: Sixteen white-tailed sea eagle chicks, gifted to Scotland from Norway as part of a major reintroduction project, have been settling into their temporary home at a secret location in Fife, Scotland.

The eaglets are the latest additions to the East Scotland Sea Eagle reintroduction programme, a partnership between RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland. Now in its fifth year, the initiative has been reintroducing the species to Eastern Scotland, with the long-term hope of restoring the birds across the full extent of their former range.

After travelling by plane from Norway to Edinburgh Airport the chicks were taken to purpose-built aviaries, where they will remain until they are strong enough to fledge.

A frequent and glorious sight in Scotland's skies
Stewart Stevenson, Scotland's Minister for the Environment & Climate Change said: ‘The reintroduction project has been a long haul but the care and effort invested has achieved remarkable results - the white-tailed sea eagle is now a frequent and glorious sight in Scotland's skies. Undoubtedly a major draw - both for local and visiting wildlife watchers - the return of these magnificent birds to take their place in Scotland's rich biodiversity, has also provided a significant tourist attraction.

‘This successful programme strengthens the link between us and Norway and I would like to thank them for their continued contribution to Scottish wildlife. I would also like to congratulate the partner organisations for their hard work in restoring this iconic species to Scotland and hope to see them flourish further in the years to come.'

Affectionately known as ‘flying barn doors' due to their massive eight foot wing span, white-tailed eagles were reintroduced to Scotland in 1975 having previously been wiped out by human persecution. There are now a record-breaking 52 breeding pairs in Scotland. 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.

Positive sign for the future
Claire Smith, RSPB East Scotland Sea Eagle Officer, explained: ‘All the birds in the east coast population are fitted with radio and wing tags so we can keep track of their movements. Since the project began in 2007 we've had well over 2,500 reported sightings, this includes birds in the surrounding area of Tayside and Fife, but also further north in places such as Orkney and four birds have wandered into northern England being spotted in Northumberland, on the Solway and Lincolnshire. 

‘We're also pleased to see that east and west coast populations are mixing which is a positive sign for the future.'

Susan Davies, Scottish Natural Heritage's director of policy and advice, said: ‘So much has been said about these fantastic birds but nothing quite captures what it's like to see one soar above you, with their amazing two-and-half metre wing span. It's quite an achievement to see such a re-introduction success with more than 50 breeding pairs and 200 sea eagles now in Scotland, and more eaglets bolstering these numbers.

‘It's also essential that conservationists continue to work with landowners and farmers into the future to ensure that this spectacular bird's future is secured for future generations.'

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