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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 23:25 GMT 00:25 UK
Sea eagles return to east coast
Sea Eagle
The eagles were hand delivered by the Norwegian airforce
A plane carrying 15 white-tailed sea eagles has touched down at RAF Kinloss in the latest phase of a programme to reintroduce the birds to Britain.

The chicks were delivered by the Norwegian Air Force before being moved to a secret location.

They will be held in specially built Forestry Commission aviaries for two months before being allowed to soar over the skies of eastern Scotland.

The species became extinct in the UK in the early part of the 20th Century.

The East Scotland Sea Eagle Project is the latest phase of a successful re-introduction programme that began on the island of Rum in 1975.

Perfect habitat

The project aims to import a further 20 chicks from Norway every year for the next four years in the hope that a self-sustaining population of the spectacular birds will become established on the east coast.

Sea eagles have thrived on the west coast of Scotland since the original Rum re-introduction project, with several breeding pairs settling on the islands of Skye and Mull.

Experts believe the east coast of Scotland will provide a perfect habitat for the birds to thrive with its lowland wetlands and estuaries.

These chicks represent another step forward in restoring what was lost to all of us
Ian Jardine
Scottish Natural Heritage

The first batch of chicks, all aged between four and eight weeks, were collected from nests in Norway by the Norwegian Ornithological Society over the last 12 days before being loaded into an aircraft and flown to Scotland.

Claire Smith, East Scotland Sea Eagle Officer of RSPB Scotland, said: "These birds are a gift from the people of Norway to the people of Scotland.

"Sea eagles became extinct in the east of Scotland less than 200 years ago due to human persecution and it's wonderful that they are coming back to where they belong."

Each chick will be fitted with wing tags and radio backpacks prior to release so that they can be radio tracked for up to five years.

Ian Jardine, chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage, said: "These chicks represent another step forward in restoring what was lost to all of us."

White-tailed Sea eagles are Britain's largest birds with a wingspan of over eight feet.

During the 1800's bounties were put upon eagles' heads and the last sea eagle, an albino female, was shot on Shetland in 1918.

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