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Last Updated: Monday, 19 November 2007, 09:52 GMT
Broody eagles boost chick numbers
Sea eagle (Pic: Iain Erskine)
Sea eagles were reintroduced in Scotland in the 1970s
Scotland's breeding population of sea eagles has risen to its highest number since the reintroduction programme began more than 30 years ago.

RSPB Scotland said 42 territorial breeding pairs had been logged, an increase of six pairs since last year.

The charity added that the breeding eagles had led to a record 34 chicks.

Skye, Mull and the Western Isles remain the core population areas since the species were brought back through reintroduction programmes.

The on-going monitoring of white tailed eagles, as they are also known, is conducted by the Sea Eagle Project team, which includes RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland.

Jeremy Wilson, head of research at RSPB Scotland and the chairman of the sea eagle project team, said: "It has been a fantastic year for these stunning birds, which are now firmly established as a totem of the incredible natural heritage that Scotland plays host to.

We can expect to see these majestic birds all around Scotland's coast, bringing this fantastic and inspiring spectacle to people throughout the country
Jeremy Wilson
RSPB Scotland

"This breeding population is likely to continue to rise in coming years as juveniles from the reintroduction programmes reach sexual maturity, find vacant territories and pair up with a mate, with which they remain faithful for life.

"Eventually, as they continue to spread out, and west and east coast populations meet, we can expect to see these majestic birds all around Scotland's coast, bringing this fantastic and inspiring spectacle to people throughout the country."

The project team understands there are about 200 individual sea eagles resident in Scotland .

The reintroduction programme began on the island of Rum from 1975 to 1983 and then on to Wester Ross from 1993 to 1998.

This year breeding pairs have established territories as far south as the Argyll islands and west on to the mainland in the Highland district of Lochaber.

Now the final phase of the programme to firmly establish a population right across Scotland is introducing chicks taken from nests in Norway to the east coast.

'Bodes well'

Fifteen chicks were released in Fife at the beginning of August, and up to 20 young birds from Norway will be released each year for the next four years.

It is hoped that this population will eventually mix with the west coast birds and set up territories right round the suitable coastal habitats of Scotland.

Environment Minister Mike Russell said: "This is fantastic news for Scotland's sea eagle population, our sustainable environment and our tourist economy.

"I am delighted to hear we can now expect to see these majestic birds all around Scotland's coast.

"The increase of breeding pairs to their highest level in over 30 years is a credit to the work of the Sea Eagle Project Team and bodes well for the future development of these stunning birds."

Conservationists in Ireland have taken similar steps to reintroduce sea eagles in the Killarney area of South West Ireland.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Sea eagles in flight



SEE ALSO
Sea eagles return to east coast
21 Jun 07 |  North East/N Isles
Nest fall kills sea eagle chicks
23 Apr 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Sea eagle 200th to take to 'Skye'
27 Jul 06 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
McConnell savours eagle sighting
17 Jul 06 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Birds of prey 'should be managed'
19 Jun 06 |  Highlands and Islands

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