Young Scottish sea eagle flies across country to spend festive season with family

A celebrity sea eagle will spend Christmas with her great-great-grandparents after flying across land and sea from the Cairngorms to the Isle of Mull.

The bird, one of two to hatch at a nest at RSPB Scotland’s Loch Garten nature reserve earlier this year, became a TV star when her first weeks were captured on camera for the BBC nature show Springwatch.

Now, thanks to a satellite tag fitted before the chick could fly, conservationists have traced her movements to the Hebridean island where her oldest forebears still live.

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Sea eagles, or white-tailed eagles, were once common across the UK, but were hunted to the verge of extinction in the 1800s – the last surviving native bird was shot in Shetland in 1918.

In the 1970s a major effort was launched to bring the species back using birds taken from Norway, with the first individuals released on the Isle of Rum.

The Cairngorms bird is a direct descendent of a female named Frisa, hatched and tagged in 1992 and one of the first birds to hatch in Scotland after the reintroduction, and a male born on – and named after – the Isle of Skye during the second phase of the recolonisation project.

The pair, who have been living on Mull for decades, are also regulars on the BBC and featured in the first ever live episode of Springwatch.

There are now around 150 pairs of sea eagles nesting across Scotland, with Skye – aged 28 and a great-great grandad – officially recognised as the country’s oldest.

Sea eagles, also known as white-tailed eagles, disappeared from the UK in the early 20th century but have now recolonised Scotland after a successful reintroduction project launched in the 1970s. Picture: Katie Nethercoat

Ornithologists at the RSPB believe the young female will spend the festive period amongst her relatives on Mull before wandering further afield to explore different areas of Scotland.

BBC Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams said: “It was such a privilege to watch the two sea eagle chicks in the Cairngorms last spring and to know they both successfully flew the nest was just fantastic.

"Now to hear that the female has made it all the way across country to Mull – one of my favourite places in the world – and that she’s exploring the island home of her ancestors, is just the icing on the Christmas cake. I hope the family gave her a warm welcome for the festive season.”

Picture: RSPB Scotland
Skye, the country's oldest known sea eagle, and his mate Frisa, one of the first 'native' birds to hatch in Scotland after the species was reintroduced, live on Mull and are the great-great grandparents of the young Cairngorms female. Picture: Jim Manthorpe/BBC Winterwatch

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