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Population trends

The osprey used to be distributed throughout Europe, but heavy persecution, mainly by Victorian egg and skin collectors, during the 19th and early 20th century brought about dramatic decreases and extinctions. 

The osprey became extinct as a breeding bird in England in 1840 and in Scotland in 1916, though it continued to occur as a passage migrant. In 1954 it re-colonised naturally (by birds thought to be of Scandinavian origin) and a pair has nested successfully almost every year since 1959 at the RSPB's Loch Garten, Abernethy Forest, reserve in Scotland. The Osprey Centre at Loch Garten has become one of the most famous conservation sites in the world. 

The early re-colonisation was very slow, possibly because of organochlorine pesticides in the food chain and due to the continued activities of egg collectors, and had reached only 14 pairs by 1976. Fifteen years later, there were 71 pairs.

In 2001, 158 breeding pairs were located, mainly in Scotland. That same year saw the first successful nesting of ospreys in England for 160 years by both naturally re-colonising birds in the Lake District and re-introduced ones at Rutland Water.

Bird guide