Sea eagles were wiped out in Britain due to excessive hunting and egg collection. The last native pair reproduced in 1916, and then there were no more. They were Britain’s largest bird of prey. In 1975 about 82 of the white-tailed eagles were reintroduced from other countries to the island of Rum, a small island off the coast of Scotland. The current human population is about 20, so the eagles should be relatively safe from poaching. Even though Rum is sparsely populated, the new eagles donated by Norway were released in a secret location.
Because of the reintroduction program and various conservation efforts, there are now 52 breeding pairs of the endangered eagles in Scotland. This year these adult eagles have produced about 46 hatchlings, which is a record for reproducing. Depending on the need, about twenty chicks each year are also being brought from Norway.
“I have no doubt that the successful reintroduction of this magnificent bird can continue, and along with the East Coast Sea Eagle Project, ensures that this species can establish territories right across Scotland, restoring a strong Scotland-wide population,” said Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham. (Source: BBC)
Still, eagles are considered pests by some and illegal poisonings continue. Last year, one sea eagle and two golden eagles were poisoned, along with 25 other birds of prey. One allegation made by some sheep farmers is that eagles kill lambs, but monitoring of sheep has shown very little impact from eagles.
“We are lucky enough in Scotland to have some of the world’s most majestic species of birds of prey, but unfortunately a significant number of people continue to break the law and undermine the recovery of their populations,” said Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland Head of Species and Land Management. (Source: Walkhighlands.com) He also noted the short-sightedness of those killing eagles because they bring in steady revenues from tourism, along with other wildlife. Gamekeepers have also been linked to the poisonings, as some have said birds of prey eat smaller birds they want to have on their lands to hunt. Sea eagles, however, mainly feed on fish and carrion, so the views of some farmers and gamekeepers are off-base.
The sea eagles are far more beneficial for local tourism than the negligible amount of animals they eat. David Woodhouse runs Isle of Mull Wildlife Expeditions and takes tourists on trips where they can view Scotland’s wild animals in their natural habitats. In his diary entry for October 13th, he wrote, “Fantastic calm weather and we had super views of sea eagles sitting, slavonian grebes, great northern and red throated divers, black guillemots, red breasted mergansers and goosanders, fallow deer and two red deer stags with antlers locked in battle again and others roaring, mum and three otter cubs and finally golden eagles overhead and of course seals and more predictable wildlife such as stonechats, rock pipits etc.”
One estimate says sea eagles generate two million British pounds per year just for the island of Mull. About half that money goes to the Forestry Commission for continued conservation and the other half to the community. An estimated 6,000 people travel to Mull each year to see sea eagles.
Image Credit: Karlo