The re-introduction of the white-tailed sea eagle to Scotland: 1975-1987
John A Love
Prepared for the NCC, RSPB, ITE and Scottish Wildlife Trust. Comprehensive report on the attempts to reintroduce these magnificent birds. Includes full history, and details of breeding ecology.



Early last century the white-tailed sea eagle Haliaeetus albicilla was widely distributed along the north and west coasts of Scotland and Ireland, with an estimated 200 or more pairs nesting. Love (1983) has detailed the persecution which ultimately led to the species' extermination in Britain. Only a handful of pairs lingered in Scotland into the early years of this century, and the last nesting attempt is said to have taken place on the Isle of Skye in 1916 (Baxter & Rintoul 1953).


Few sea eagles were recorded in Britain thereafter. Only seven records unconnected with the current reintroductions are lcnown for the period 1957 to 1981, and no natural recolonisation of Britain has taken place. This was because the species had also suffered in Europe, from persecution, habitat loss and, latterly, from pesticides. A slight recovery in parts of Europe has been detected in recent years and has resulted in about seven more sea eagles being recorded in Britain since 1982, all in the south and east of England. One shot in north Norfolk in May 1985 bore an East German leg ring. These recent immigrants have all been immature and, even if any were to survive to maturity and succeed in finding a mate, the only suitable habitat lies far to the north. Natural recolonisation is therefore unlikely.


Only northern Norway retains a healthy population of sea eagles; this is now estimated to exceed 600 pairs (H Misund pers. comm.). Ringing studies have shown that these birds exhibit little inclination to disperse from their natural area. Thus conservationists concluded that, if the sea eagle was to become re-established in Britain, active help by man would be necessary. Two small reintroduction schemes were undertaken some years ago - the first in 1959 in Argyll and the other in 1968 on Fair Isle in the Shetlands (Sandeman 1965; Dennis 1968, 1969). These involved a total of only seven eagles, of which only a few may have survived. However, they were important pioneering moves. The current scheme was initiated in 1975 by the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC).




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A4, softback, 48pp
ISBN 0-86139-463-1
Please cite as: John A Love, (1988), The re-introduction of the white-tailed sea eagle to Scotland: 1975-1987, A4, softback, 48pp, ISBN 0-86139-463-1