White-Tailed Eagles Soar Over England After 240 Years

Conservation groups reintroduce this nearly extinct species.


  1. (Andrew Astbury / Shutterstock.com)

The majestic white-tailed Eagles are flying over England once more. The last sighting of this lost native species was 240 years ago. But thanks to a reintroduction program, they have returned to the coast and cliffs of England.

Also known as sea eagles, the white-tails have a wingspan of up to 2.5 meters and are the largest bird of prey in the UK according to the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation conservation group. This species, once plentiful, were nearly extinct in the UK and was reintroduced into the wild in Scotland and Ireland, and now England.

The eagles are part of a group of six eaglets that were brought to the isle of Wight by the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England in August 2019 as part of a 5-year conservation project. The young birds were collected from the wild in Scotland under license from Natural England, the government wildlife authority.

The eaglets were fed and monitored by a group of experts and volunteers according to a Forestry England press release. All of the birds made excellent progress and before they were released back into the wild, they were fitted with miniature satellite trackers so that their movements and progress can be monitored.

The Isle of Wight was chosen as the ideal spot for the release because it has what the organization describes as the perfect habitat with cliffs and woodlands that can provide safe nesting sites. Surrounding estuaries will also provide a healthy food source for the eagles.

Feeding stations have been set-up by the two conservation groups to encourage the birds to make their home on the isle and not to venture to more dangerous areas. It will take a few years for the eagles to become established in their new home and breeding is not expected until 2024.

“I have spent much of my life working on the reintroduction of these amazing birds and so watching them take to the skies of the Isle of Wight has been a truly special moment. Establishing a population of white-tailed eagles in the south of England will link and support emerging populations of these birds in the Netherlands, France and Ireland, with the aim of restoring the species to the southern half of Europe, said Roy Dennis, the founder of the Wildlife Foundation in the Forestry England press release.

This successful reintroduction is really a milestone at a time when the UK’s diversity of wildlife is under pressure and in a decline according to The National Trust. In fact, since 1970 there has been a 41 percent drop in numbers of species.

Tony Juniper, the chairman of Natural England said in the press release, “The return of these spectacular birds to England is a real landmark for conservation. I very much hope that it will also provide a practical demonstration of the fact that we can actually reverse the historic decline of our depleted natural environment.”

There is also a hope that wildlife recovery will also bring economic benefits to the areas where wildlife is reintroduced in terms of eco-tourism like in rewilding projects and the building of national forests including the one the Woodland Trust is working on in Wales.

These restoration of habitats and wildlife are good for the environment and for the people who will reap the benefits of being in nature in national forests and in watching the eagles soar.

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