12 more white-tailed eagles released on Isle of Wight

Twelve more white-tailed eagles (also known as sea eagles) have been released on the Isle of Wight as part of a licensed project to reintroduce the species to southern England.

Formerly resident in parts of England, the sea eagle was extirpated a few hundred years ago thanks to persecution. The same thing happened in Scotland but the eagles have since been successfully reintroduced there after Norway generously donated young birds for the project, first for the Isle of Rum (1975) and then later in Wester Ross (1993-1998).

The reintroduction project in southern England is led by the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England, and began in 2019 by releasing six eagles in the first year and seven birds last year, bringing the total released so far to 25.

The aim is to release up to 60 birds over a period of five years with the objective of creating a small breeding population in the region after an absence of over 240 years.

Young eaglets are being collected by experts from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, under licence, from selected nest sites in western Scotland and are taken down to special release aviaries on the Isle of Wight where they’re cared for until ready for release. Each eagle is carrying a satellite transmitter so the team can monitor and track their progress.

[Two young sea eagles released from the holding aviary and considering their first flights. Photo by Forestry England]

Roy Dennis, MBE, Founder of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation said: “We are now three years into this reintroduction project, and it is extremely encouraging to see just how successfully white-tailed eagles are settling into the English landscape. Highlights for me have included watching the birds learn how to successfully fish all year round and the growing interactions between the birds. I am also always fascinated in tracking some of their huge exploratory flights across England and Europe and their ultimate return back to the Isle of Wight.” 

We have seen from other reintroduction programmes that returning lost species offers real benefits for the health of our environment, and to people and local economies. None of this would be possible without the support of many people and I would like to thank everyone who has helped us again with this year’s release and ongoing monitoring of the birds.” 

Steve Egerton-Read, White-Tailed Eagle Project Officer, Forestry England, said: “Over the last three years we have closely tracked the progress of these incredible birds. It’s been brilliant to see how well they are fitting into the landscape and we are hopeful that before too long they will breed in England again.” 

It’s been particularly rewarding to hear from people across the country who are delighted to have seen the birds in their local area. It’s still a real thrill for me to see these incredible birds in the skies above the Isle of Wight and I look forward to the day that they are re-established right across southern England.” 

For more information about the project and to keep updated about the eagle’s movements, please visit the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation website here.

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