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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 April 2006, 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK
Scotland flies high on bird money
Osprey flying into nest
The osprey is Scotland's most popular bird attraction
Birds such as ospreys, sea eagles and red kites make a multi-million pound contribution to Scotland's economy every year, according to an RSPB study.

The osprey is the most popular attraction, bringing in 125,000 visitors who spend an additional 2.2m every year.

Mull's sea eagles have also become a tourist magnet, pulling in thousands of wildlife enthusiasts.

They boost the area's economy by as much as 1.7m a year.

The 350,000 visitors who go to Mull every year spend 38m on the island and of this, between 1.45m and 1.69m is due to the presence of sea eagles.

Further north on Orkney, 1.3m is spent by almost 9,000 tourists who are drawn to view the dramatic "seabird cities" as well as its wealth of rare flowers and mammals.

The findings of the survey just go to show what a huge draw the sea eagles now are to Mull and the kind of benefits they can bring
Dave Sexton
RSPB Scotland

The ospreys can be seen at five viewing sites in Scotland - Loch Garten in the Highlands, Loch of the Lowes in Perthshire, Aberfoyle in the Central Belt, Tweed Valley in the Borders and Wigtown in Dumfries and Galloway.

The country's most famous pair of ospreys, EJ and Henry, are at Loch Garten.

The RSPB study gathered information from 45 sites across the UK, stretching from Cornwall to northern Scotland, and ranging from city-centre peregrine watching to seabird tourism on remote islands.

'Fantastic results'

RSPB Scotland Mull officer Dave Sexton said: "This is the 21st anniversary of sea eagles breeding successfully in Scotland since the reintroduction project started and it all began here on Mull.

"The findings of the survey just go to show what a huge draw the sea eagles now are to Mull and the kind of benefits they can bring both here and to other areas where they may be reintroduced in the future.

Sea eagle
Mull's sea eagles have raised the island's economy by 1.7m a year

"As a visual spectacle they are not only stunning birds in their own right, but they are also incredibly important in terms of their impact on the island's economic well-being."

Ian Dickie, head of economics at the RSPB, said: "This is the first analysis of the UK-wide benefits of individual species and the results are fantastic.

"It clearly demonstrates the huge effect spectacular birds can have in engaging support and interest in wildlife.

"This interest is reflected in the positive effects the birds can have in their local area, helping to provide income and employment for local people."

Along Scotland's west coast, RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage are hoping to boost wildlife tourism at one of Scotland's most popular holiday destinations - the Isle of Arran, with the first ever Arran Wildlife Festival from 27 to 31 May.

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