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White-tailed eagle project celebrates significant milestone: 100th breeding pair on Hoy

The 100th pair of white-tailed eagles has nested on Hoy - the first white-tailed eagles to nest in Orkney for 142 years.  This milestone comes in a year of significant anniversaries for the re-introduction programme. It is 40 years since the first young white-tailed eagles from Norway were released on Rum in 1975 and 30 years since the first wild chick fledged on Mull in 1985.

Image: Ian McCarthy

The re-introduction programme run by RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), released 82 young eagles over 10 years on Rum. It marked the return of white-tailed eagles, also called sea eagles, to Scotland after an absence of nearly 60 years. More young eagles were released under the programme in Wester Ross between 1993 and 1998. Further releases took place in Fife from 2007 to 2012, through a partnership with Forestry Commission Scotland, including in the National Forest Estate.

White-tailed eagles became extinct in the UK due to widespread persecution. They bred in England and the Isle of Man, and across Scotland and Ireland, but by 1900, only a handful of eyries remained, all in Scotland.  The last known nesting attempt was on Skye in 1916 and in 1918 the last British white-tailed eagle was shot in Shetland.

Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: 'The 100th breeding pair marks a huge milestone for the re-introduction of white-tailed eagles, and to reach it in this important anniversary year for the programme makes it even more special. It's fantastic to see how these magnificent birds have captured the public's imagination and that the sight of a white-tailed eagle soaring in the Scottish sky is no longer a thing of the past.  This is one of nature's brilliant success stories.'

Known as 'flying barn doors', thanks to their eight-foot wingspan, white-tailed eagles are the largest birds of prey in the UK. They form faithful, life-long pair bonds and display a spectacular talon-grappling aerial courtship display during the breeding season.