White-tailed eagle numbers soaring in Scotland
Numbers of Scotland's largest bird of prey have risen over the past year despite concerns about the impact of bad weather on breeding.
The number of white-tailed eagle pairs has risen to 57 in Scotland in 2011, a rise of 10% on the previous year.Conservationists had been concerned that high winds in May, when young chicks are at their most vulnerable, could have had a detrimental impact on breeding.
A total of 46 chicks fledged successfully during the breeding season, a drop of three from the year before.
Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland head of species and land management, said: "The white-tailed eagle is part of Scotland’s rich natural heritage and it is fantastic to see them back where they belong and gradually increasing in numbers and range on the west coast.
"Now with the east coast reintroduction entering its final year, we are anticipating the first steps towards the establishment of a breeding population of sea eagles on the other side of Scotland."
White-tailed eagles - also known as sea eagles - became extinct in Britain at the beginning of the 20th century.
A reintroduction programme began on the Isle of Rum in the Inner Hebrides in 1975 and since then the population has steadily recovered.
Sixteen white-tailed eagle chicks, donated from Norway, were released from a secret location in Fife in August.
Ron Macdonald, Scottish Natural Heritage head of policy and advice, said: "The continued success of the white-tailed eagle reintroduction in Scotland is great to see, particularly the successful 2011 breeding season which occurred despite a cool and wet spring.
"More and more people are now getting a chance to see these big birds of prey soaring over our countryside, increasingly in areas close to our villages, towns and cities.
"In addition to inspiring people with the sheer grandeur of their flight, they also contribute to the growth of nature based tourism in Scotland."
"Latest published figures show that the direct economic value to Scotland of nature based tourism is £1.4bn per year, so the more we can do to promote our wonderful wildlife the better it is for jobs too."
Source: STV News