Page last updated at 00:19 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 01:19 UK

Record year for sea eagle pairs

Sea eagle
Sea eagles were released in Fife earlier this year

Sea eagles in Scotland have had their best breeding season since their reintroduction in the 1970s, RSPB Scotland has said.

This year has seen 46 breeding pairs - two more than 2008 - and 36 chicks fledge and leave their nests.

RSPB Scotland said it could be the healthiest population for 150 years.

Sea eagles were hunted to extinction in Scotland during the early 19th Century. Birds were first reintroduced to Mull between 1975 and 1985.

There are now more than 200 individual birds in Scotland, with recent releases of young in Fife.

Thanks to this reintroduction a little piece of Scotland is being restored to its former glory
Roseanna Cunningham
Environment minister

Among the breeding birds this season were a new pair setting up on Lewis in the Western Isles and another in Lochaber.

Five of this year's chicks have been fitted with satellite tags, and several of these are starting to make exploratory flights away from the immediate nest site areas.

The progress of two of these chicks on Mull is being tracked via the RSPB website at

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said a record-breaking year for sea eagles was "wonderful news".

She said: "Everyone involved should be congratulated on their achievements as thanks to this reintroduction a little piece of Scotland is being restored to its former glory."

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said landowners and land managers deserved thanks for their part in helping the raptors establish territories.

Prof Colin Galbraith, SNH policy and advice director chairman of the Sea Eagle Project Team, said: "This is important progress in re-establishing sea eagles across their historic range in Scotland, and is the result of a huge effort by many people over the past 30 years.

"It shows what can be done to reinstate a key part of our natural heritage."

Radio tagged

Prof Jeremy Wilson, head of research for RSPB Scotland, added that there were plenty of vacant territories available for the eagles across Scotland.

However, crofters on Skye and in Wester Ross have blamed the birds for taking lambs.

In April, it was announced the fortunes of 60 lambs were to be monitored from birth to weaning to help determine whether large numbers of livestock fell prey to sea eagles.

Lambs on two holdings in Gairloch, Wester Ross, were radio tagged and observed by field workers.

SNH appointed FERA (Food and Environment Research Agency) to do the study.

The natural heritage agency said the study aimed to provide a scientific measure of the true level of lamb deaths directly attributable to sea eagles as opposed to other causes.

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