Golden eagle population in south Scotland close to collapse

Poisoned golden eagle Borders 2007An article in the Scotsman today suggests that the recent death of the shot golden eagle (see here) signals ‘disaster’ for the species in this region.

We would agree with that, although we disagree with the figures used to support the statement.

RSPB Scotland has warned that the latest death puts the future of the species in the area at risk, with the number of breeding pairs in the south at “less than half of what it should be”, down from around ten to just three or fewer.

Actually, based on the extent of suitable habitat, the target number of breeding territories (for the species to achieve a favourable conservation status in the region) has been estimated at 17 (see the Golden Eagle Conservation Framework below).

We know of only four currently occupied territories in southern Scotland. Of these, two are occupied by single adults and two by breeding pairs. Of the two breeding pairs, only one pair has been productive in recent years.

We understand the shot golden eagle was an adult male. Was he part of the one remaining  productive breeding pair in the whole of southern Scotland? We’re hearing unconfirmed reports that only one adult has been seen this spring in the one occupied (productive) breeding territory. We’ll have to wait a while longer for this to be verified.

The article also suggests that the national golden eagle population has remained stable in recent decades, around 420-440 known breeding pairs. This is actually quite misleading. Yes, the figures suggest a stable population but what they don’t reveal is that this is a suppressed population, being held at a level well below what it should be, largely prevented from growth by illegal persecution. A conservative estimate of known or potential golden eagle territories throughout Scotland has been estimated at 716 (see the Golden Eagle Conservation Framework below).

The article includes a facile quote from Scottish Land and Estates, who seem to ignore the unfolding disaster in southern Scotland and instead talk about the work their members are doing in the north. Sure, there are some enlightened landowners helping golden eagles in the north, but the evidence suggests they are heavily outnumbered by those who are not.

It’s been five years since the Golden Eagle Conservation Framework was published. That government-funded study demonstrated that golden eagles were in favourable conservation status in only 3 of 16 regions nationwide. The report concluded that the highest national priority for the conservation and management of golden eagles in Scotland was to tackle persecution in the areas where it still persists.

Last Friday, when we reported on the death of the shot golden eagle, we encouraged readers to contact the Environment Minister to urge him to take the action he promised last year if persecution incidents continued. According to our site stats, we know that over 70 of you have now used the direct email link to send him a message. We also know that many more have contacted him without using the direct email link. If you haven’t already done so, please consider contacting him: This surge of messages should let him know our strength of feeling on this issue. We’ve had enough and we expect our elected representatives to respond.

Article in the Scotsman here

Golden Eagle Conservation Framework here

5 thoughts on “Golden eagle population in south Scotland close to collapse”

  1. So where is the support for reintroduction at Langholm!! Our money and a pair destroyed by xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx in 1990. SNH should just do it even if the estate wants to prosecute them. It is the only way to show these estates up for what they are doing which is destroying the uplands.

  2. A national disgrace, I hope that the estate owners and their gamekeepers are pleased with themselfs, the majority of the population most certainly are not.

  3. The problem is they are pleased with themselves. Langholm will be lucky to see any harriers this year, millions of pounds of tax payers money down the drain because a minority want to shoot a few more grouse each time they go out and brag about how many they,ve got. Harriers and Eagle numbers dwindling while the inbreds continue to stick their grubby fingers up to the rest of us

  4. To read about the 300 birds of prey killed on the Buccleuch estate it is page 263 in Derek Radcliffe’s excellent book ‘Galloway and the Borders’. I wonder how he would react to this present situation!

  5. Should read – How he would have reacted to this present situation. Sadly he is no longer with us.

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