East Scotland Sea Eagles

Sea eagles, also known as white-tailed eagles, are the UK’s largest bird of prey.

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


They were a common sight across Scotland during the 19th century until persecution drove them to UK extinction. The last eagle was shot in 1918.

They are now a globally endangered species with only around 10,000 pairs in the world, a third of which live in Norway.
The first sea eagles were reintroduced to the Isle of Rum in 1975 and then Wester Ross between 1993 and 1998. These birds have established an increasing breeding population on the west coast of Scotland.
A third reintroduction of 85 of these magnificent birds to the east coast between 2007 and 2012 will help make the Scottish sea eagle population stronger and allow them to re-establish themselves across the country sooner.
In 2013, for the first time in almost 200 years, sea eagles bred successfully in east Scotland.



Reintroducing sea eagles to their former East Scotland haunts to help expand their range and ensure the survival of this globally threatened species.

The sea eagle chicks that arrived in Scotland were collected at 6–8 weeks old from nests in Norway.
Each chick came from a nest containing twins, so that one chick could be left in the nest. When they were 12–14 weeks old and ready to fly, the young birds were released in the Tay/Forth area. Between 2007 and 2012, 15–20 chicks were reintroduced to the east coast each year, to allow a breeding population to become established in East Scotland. 
In 2013, for the first time in almost 200 years, sea eagles bred successfully in East Scotland.


Tagging birds by year and individual. Our tag colour shows which year the bird was released, and the letter and number identifies the individual.

  • 2007: white tag
  • 2008: no tag; colour rings on one leg
  • 2009: turquoise tag
  • 2010: yellow tag
  • 2011: red tag
  • 2012: pale grey tag

Sea eagles that have fledged from nests in East Scotland were fitted with white wing tags between 2013 and 2016, and blue wing tags from 2017 onwards.

Recording public sightings of reintroduced sea eagles is also an important part of our ongoing monitoring.

If you're lucky enough to see one of these beautiful birds:

  • Make a note of the date, time, and place (including the grid reference if you know it).
  • Make a note of what the bird was doing, plus any information you can see on the wing tags, including the colour and the marks on the tag.

Then get in touch with us at the RSPB Tayside and Fife Office.

You can email us at: eastscotlandseaeagles@rspb.org.uk

or call us on 01738 630783.

Key Dates

  • 2007: The reintroduction project began. The first 15 eaglets were collected from nests in Norway, and flown into RAF Kinloss in June. In August the first 15 juvenile sea eagles were released.
  • 2010: We launched an education project in Perth & Kinross using 'Glow', a national, online resource bank for school pupils and teachers. The 'sea eagles: a new beginning' website is based upon the 'Storyline' approach.
  • 2011: Heritage Lottery Fund and LEADER funded the final year (2011-2012) of reintroductions as part of the SEEVIEWS (Sea Eagle Education Viewing Interpretation and Engagement within Scotland) project.
  • 2012: The last six eaglets were collected from nests in Norway and flown into Edinburgh Airport in June. In August, the last six juvenile white-tailed eagles were released.
  • 2013: White-tailed eagles bred successfully in East Scotland for the first time in nearly 200 years, when a pair released in 2009 raised a healthy male chick.
  • 2014: Interpretation known as 'Feathers' was erected at Broughty Ferry on the Firth of Tay, thanks to funding from HLF as part of SEEVIEWS. It tells the story of sea eagles in east Scotland: their appearance on Pictish stones, their extinction, their reintroduction and the first juvenile in 2013.
  • 2015: A pair of sea eagles nested on RSPB Scotland’s Hoy nature reserve in Orkney for the first time in nearly 150 years.
  • 2016: Celebrating Nature with Schools was launched – a two year project with funding from players of the People’s Postcode Lottery to offer school children from Perthshire, Fife, Angus and Dundee the opportunity to learn about the inspiring return of sea eagles to East Scotland.
  • 2017: It’s been 10 years since the first sea eagles were released as part of the east coast reintroduction. Thousands of people have been engaged in the project since it began and it is supported by a dedicated team of local volunteers.


The continued monitoring of our fledgling breeding population of sea eagles is the priority for our current and future work. We are also raising the profile of the species through our events and education programme.


East Scotland Sea Eagles (ESSE) is a partnership project between:



This project was supported by:

  • The Heritage Lottery Fund (2011-2014)
  • The Scottish Government
  • The European community Leader in Fife and Rural Tayside (2011-2013).

The eagle with the sunlit eye

Rhian Evans, East Scotland Sea Eagle Project Officer, talks us through preparing the young sea eagles for release, the release itself and then tracking them down afterwards.

None available

Sea eagle project film still

Where can I see a sea eagle?

Tagged with: Country: Scotland Species: White-tailed eagle Project status: Ongoing Project types: Species protection