Golden eagle numbers soar to highest level in 300 years in southern Scotland

The number of golden eagles in southern Scotland is at its highest for more than three centuries, conservationists have revealed.

Six more chicks have been relocated from the Highlands, bringing the total population of golden eagles in the area to around 39, the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project said.

The were moved to a secret location this summer as part of the initiative, which aims to reverse the decline in their numbers in the area.

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Project manager Cat Barlow said: “It is thrilling to know that our six new arrivals bring the local population of golden eagles to the highest number recorded in the area for three centuries.

One of the satellite-tagged golden eagles released and flourishing in southern ScotlandOne of the satellite-tagged golden eagles released and flourishing in southern Scotland
One of the satellite-tagged golden eagles released and flourishing in southern Scotland

“As a top predator, this majestic bird of prey is fundamental to protecting our local eco system. Before our project began, only three pairs were nesting in the south of Scotland.

“We’ve now more than tripled the population, and though all seem to have settled in the south of Scotland, some of our birds have even travelled as far south as the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, where the species has been extinct for a number of years.”

Led by the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, Scottish Raptor Study Group workers in the Highlands carefully collected chicks from a number of supportive estates under licence from NatureScot earlier this year, before taking them to the release site in the Moffat Hills.

The birds were then cared for in specially-designed release aviaries and were fed to help them adjust to their new habitat before their release this summer.

The initiative is now preparing to celebrate the new arrivals at what is said to be the UK’s only Golden Eagle Festival, in Moffat between September 16 and 18.

Francesca Osowska, NatureScot chief executive, said: “With wildlife declining across the globe, it is fantastic to hear that the project has translocated so many eagle chicks once again this year.

“Golden eagles are an exciting part of Scotland’s wildlife and we’re passionate about returning them to places where they used to thrive.”

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Project partners worked on the plan for more than 11 years before releasing the first eagle chicks in 2018.

The initiative is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, project partners and the Scottish Government.

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