Breeding sea eagles become Fife tourist attraction

THE first pair of sea eagles to breed in the east of Scotland for almost 200 years have become a tourist attraction.

Sea eagles are now a massive  tourist draw to Fife. Picture: Andrew Guppy
Sea eagles are now a massive  tourist draw to Fife. Picture: Andrew Guppy
Sea eagles are now a massive tourist draw to Fife. Picture: Andrew Guppy

Scotland’s largest birds of prey, known as “flying barn doors” because of their 8ft wing spans, were reintroduced to Scotland on the Isle of Rhum in 1975. As part of the project, 85 young birds from Norway were released in Fife between 2007 and 2012 in an attempt to establish a population there.

The first successful nesting attempt was made last year by a pair introduced from Norway in 2009. The pair, known as Turquoise 1 and Turquoise Z, have now produced a chick for the second year running.

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Raptor fans are being encouraged to visit the area to watch the magnificent birds – including on the beach.

A programme of activities was launched yesterday by RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, to highlight the success of the species since its re-introduction.

Rhian Evans of RSPB Scotland, who has played a key role in the programme, said: “Persecution wiped sea eagles off the UK map almost 100 years ago but they’re now back, and doing remarkably well, with three breeding attempts in east and central Scotland this year.

“One pair is nesting on Forestry Commission land here in Fife and they often visit the coastline at Tentsmuir Forest, which is one of their favourite hunting grounds. They can be seen quite frequently on the beach.”

Last year’s chick, the first to fledge in the east of Scotland for nearly 200 years – disappeared in April in upper Strathdon. Ms Evans said she hoped this year’s baby will have better luck.

She added: “We have just put wing tags and a satellite transmitter on him, so we can follow his movements.”

The iconic raptors were wiped out in Britain, largely due to human intervention. In Scotland, the last native bird was shot in Shetland in 1918.

The reintroduction project started on Rhum in 1975, and the first chick bred in the wild since UK extinction was born on Mull in June 1985.

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There are now more than 200 individual sea eagles in Scotland, including more than 50 breeding pairs on the west coast.

Their vast wingspan and striking white tail has made them a tourist magnet in areas including Skye and Mull, where studies have shown the species is worth £5 million per year to the local economy.

Special event days are scheduled to take place at Tentsmuir Forest at the end of July and the beginning of August, with experts on hand to answer questions. Similar events will be held across Fife, including at Tayport’s Harbour Cafe and the St Andrews Botanic Gardens.

Graeme Findlay, for Forestry Commission Scotland’s Fife team, said: “I would urge anyone with an interest in birds or in wildlife to spend a day out here and wait for the eagles to come hunting. They are a truly spectacular sight.”

• The activities programme includes special event days at Tentsmuir Forest on Thursday 24 and 31 July and Thursday 7 August, as well as at locations across Fife, including Tayport Harbour Cafe and St Andrews Botanic Gardens amongst others.