Page last updated at 23:24 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 00:24 UK

Report finds golden eagle decline

Golden eagle
Golden eagle prey on small mammals and feed on carrion

The use of illegal poisons has been identified as one of the main reasons behind a decline in golden eagles.

Government agency Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said three out of 16 regions in Scotland studied had stable, or expanding populations.

Falls in numbers were found in areas with habitat suited to the bird.

Scottish Environment Minister Michael Russell said the report provided further proof poisoned baits continued to blight Scotland.

SNH said the most serious problems were found in the central and eastern Highlands, where less than half of all known territories were occupied.

The use of illegal poisons is identified as one of the main reasons behind a fall in golden eagle numbers.

Existing populations of eagles in these areas were also found to be in decline.

Based on the numbers of young golden eagles produced by the remaining pairs, the agency said populations in these regions should be expanding markedly.

Instead, their numbers are falling and they are failing to produce youngsters that could settle in other parts of Scotland.

SNH said the main land use in these regions was grouse moor management.

In Scotland, golden eagle are protected by law
The birds prey on rabbits, hares and ptarmigan, but also feed on carrion
The report looked at 10 factors that could affect the raptors, including the effect of wind farms and habitat loss
Golden eagle are Scotland's second largest after the sea eagle

Mr Russell said the results of the newly published report were "deeply disturbing".

He added: "This is a timely report, with tackling crimes against our wildlife firmly on my - and Scotland's - agenda.

"In addition, the report, alas, gives scientific proof, if further proof was needed, that the illegal use of poisoned baits continues to blight our country."

Prof Colin Galbraith, SNH's director of policy and advice, said: "For carrion feeders such as the golden eagle, and other raptors such as the red kite, poisoning is a real threat.

"We must stop this illegal killing, which mars our countryside and deprives people of the opportunity to see golden eagles."

Last month, a golden eagle chick hatched in the Scottish Borders nearly a year after one half of the only breeding pair in the region was poisoned.

There was worldwide condemnation in August 2007 after a 10-year-old female bird was killed in Peeblesshire.

Experts described it as a "tragedy" for the region but it emerged the male eagle has another partner.

New partner found by golden eagle
30 Jun 08 |  South of Scotland
Eagle eye restored by operation
11 Feb 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Camera to monitor golden eagles
28 Nov 07 |  Tayside and Central


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