White-tailed eagle Haliaeetus albicilla.

Iconic birds soar higher

Scotland's breeding population of white-tailed eagles has risen dramatically to its highest number since the reintroduction programme began more than 30 years ago.

How white tailed eagles have flourished

There are now 100 breeding pairs in the UK, with a 917 per cent increase 1990-2014, although they still have red status.

The ongoing monitoring of white tailed eagles is conducted by the Sea Eagle Project team, which includes Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland and the RSPB.

Skye, Mull and the Western Isles remain the core population area since the white-tailed eagle was brought back from extinction by reintroduction programmes, but they are now beginning to significantly expand this range. 

There are probably now around 200 sea eagles in Scotland, giving tourists and wildlife watching enthusiasts their best ever chance of witnessing these spectacular and inspiring birds often referred to as ‘flying barn doors’ due to their sheer size.

Juvenile White-tailed Eagle at The RSPB East Scotland Sea Eagle Project.

See them in the flesh

Our Date with Nature watchpoint on the Isle of Mull off Scotland’s West Coast provides a fantastic opportunity to see white-tailed eagles, and you can witness superb CCTV footage of them at the Aros Centre on the Isle of Skye.

Our programme of events is bringing birds of prey to the masses, from red kites in Ceredigion to goshawks in the New Forest. It’s not just about the wild corners of the country though, as shown by the peregrines, a species returning to old haunts thanks to reduced persecution, in Exeter and Manchester.

Tourist magnets

Birds of prey can bring huge benefits to local economies.

For example, Mull's s white-tailed eagles pull in thousands of wildlife enthusiasts who boost the island's economy by as much as £1.7 million annually, according to a recent economic survey. The 350,000 visitors that go to Mull every year spend £38 million on the island, and of this between £1.45m and £1.69m is attracted by the presence of the sea eagles.

Bringing birds of prey back

This latest increase in the white-tailed eagle population coincides with plans to establish a population across Scotland by introducing chicks taken from nests in Norway to the east coast.

We have also helped to bring back the red kite, persecuted to near-extinction in the UK, to several areas of England and Scotland. Work started to reintroduce this elegant, fork-tailed raptor to Northern Ireland in 2008. In 2014, there were 16 territorial pairs in Northern Ireland, with 8 of these pairs successfully fledging 16 chicks.

Under threat

In spite of these successes, it is not all good news for birds of prey. Unacceptably, they continue to be the targets of systematic criminal persecution, despite having been fully protected for decades.

The worst year on record for suspected cases of bird of prey persecution in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District has been highlighted in a recently-published RSPB report that reveals that goshawks and peregrines are now extinct as breeding species in the north-east Peak moors.

We're asking for your help so that we can continue our work to bring back birds of prey to the UK, protect them from illegal persecution and report more and more good news, such as Scotland’s magnificent white-tailed eagles.

How you can help

White-tailed eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. Photo by Ian McCarthy.

Birds of prey continue to be killed mercilessly, despite the fact that it is illegal and has been for decades. Please add your name to our online pledge and say 'the killing must stop'.