Soaring success for return of golden eagles to southern Scotland
The latest arrivals, which have been set free in a secret location in the hills in southern Scotland, bring the total number of the birds translocated from other parts of the country to 46 – more than quadrupling the number present before the project was launched.
The chicks were taken from healthy populations in the Highlands, Perthshire, Angus and the islands as part of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, bringing the population to the highest level recorded in the area for 300 years.
Conservationists have also reported romance in the air as a pair of previously rehomed golden eagles – Edward, one of the first to move to the south in 2018, and Iona, who came in 2021 – have got together.
Fittingly, the love birds have set up a nest together near the town of Moffat – Scotland’s first Eagle Town and host of the UK’s only Eagle Festival, now in its third year, which is due to take place later this month.
Project manager Cat Barlow said: “This is an incredible year for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. We are thrilled to bring eight more chicks to the region – the greatest number we have transported in any one summer so far, bringing the population of golden eagles in the area to an all-new record high.
“And we’re incredibly excited to see some of the first birds that we translocated in the area now nesting together. This is a significant new step in our work to ensure the south of Scotland golden eagle population is self-sustaining and continues to thrive in southern skies for many generations to come.”
The new chicks were collected by the Scottish Raptor Study Group from a number of supportive estates, under licence from NatureScot, before being taken to the release site in the Moffat hills.
The young eagles spent time in special release aviaries to help them adjust to their new habitat before being freed this summer. Experts at the University of Edinburgh’s vet school were on hand to monitor their health and well-being.
NatureScot chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “The key aim of this exciting project is to increase the number of breeding pairs in the south of Scotland, a vital part of our work to reverse biodiversity-loss and combat the climate emergency.
“With wildlife declining across the globe, it is fantastic to hear that the project has translocated so many eagle chicks once again this year and that they’re seeing such positive signs of potential breeding behaviour taking place.
“Golden eagles are an exciting part of Scotland’s wildlife, and we’re passionate about returning them to places where they used to thrive.”
BBC Springwatch star Iolo Williams, keynote speaker at this year’s Moffat Eagle Festival, said: “The work of this outstanding project is playing a vital role in boosting the small golden eagle population in the south of the country. It is brilliant to think that there is an even greater chance of seeing this iconic predator, which is so important to maintaining a healthy eco-system, soaring in southern skies.”
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