IT WAS once one of the most persecuted birds of prey in the country.
But conservation charity RSPB Scotland has launched a major campaign to have the golden eagle named as Scotland’s national bird, taking its place alongside the lion rampant, Saltire and the thistle as emblems of Scotland.
The bird of prey, whose image is already used on company logos, place names and ancient burial sites, was recently named the nation’s favourite in a competition run by Scottish Natural Heritage and VisitScotland to vote for Scotland’s favourite wild animal. The raptor attracted almost twice as many votes as the red squirrel in second place.
RSPB Scotland has now launched an online petition, fronted by leading wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan, which the conservation charity plans to submit to Scottish ministers. The petition urges ministers to formally designate the species as a national symbol.
Mr Buchanan said: “The thrill of seeing a golden eagle soaring over a Scottish hillside is an unbeatable experience. For me, they symbolise the wildest parts of Scotland and there is no other contender for Scotland’s national bird. Spending my childhood on Mull meant I grew up with eagles. I’ve been lucky enough to see hundreds since and each one is special.
“But golden eagles could and should be more common. Scots and visitors to Scotland shouldn’t hope that an eagle sighting is a once-in-a-lifetime experience; they should expect to see them regularly. That is why I’m backing the RSPB’s campaign to make Scotland’s national bird, the golden eagle.”
Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said he would like to see the golden eagle being awarded the same status and prestige as the bald eagle, which was chosen as the emblem of the United States in 1782 .
He said: “The golden eagle is a species which we are incredibly lucky to have still here in Scotland.
“It is a top predator which needs wild open spaces and the mountain, moorland and heathland habitats which sum up the essence of the hills and islands of Scotland.
“The golden eagle is something special we should be enormously proud of and its designation as Scotland’s national bird would mean that the nation would take great pride in the bird and would want to look after it and care for it and make sure that it is always here forever.
“The Americans chose the bald eagle as their national emblem. The bald eagle was being threatened by pesticides and all sorts of other problems but the Americans really set to work to solve those issues for the bald eagle and brought it back when it was in serious decline.
“The golden eagle is a stirring symbol of strength and pride, qualities well befitting to a modern Scotland and its people.”