A pair of golden eagles have successfully reared a chick at a rewilding estate in the Scottish Highlands for the first time in 40 years.
Regarded by many as Scotland’s national bird, golden eagles had regularly been seen over the 10,000-acre Dundreggan Estate, near Loch Ness. But until now, there had been no sign of them nesting or setting up a territory.
Five years ago, rewilding charity Trees for Life set up an artificial nest – or eyrie – at the estate in Glenmoriston to entice the birds of prey back. There was no certainty the project would work, but last week an eagle chick took its first flight from the nest, to the delight of conservationists.
“This is a rewilding success story beyond our wildest dreams. I’ve been checking the eyrie regularly since we built it in 2015, hoping to see evidence that the eagles had returned – and now they have. As golden eagles may use their nesting sites for generations, we’re hoping they are back for the long-term,” said Doug Gilbert, Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Manager.
“Four decades without golden eagles breeding or establishing themselves in this part of our wild and beautiful Highland glen have been four decades too long.
“When we built the artificial nest, we knew it was in a good location for eagles because we found the remains of an old nest at the site. We’ve been keeping our fingers crossed for the past five years, and it’s wonderful that our efforts have paid off like this.”
The golden eagle – the UK’s second-largest bird of prey, after the white-tailed eagle – is native to Britain, but centuries of persecution saw it driven into extinction in England and Wales by the mid-1800s. The birds have made a slow recovery in Scotland – despite illegal activity – with a recent RSPB survey showing that Scotland’s population has increased to 508 pairs, a rise of 15 percent since 2003.
Trees for Life – a charity dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands – plans to open the world’s first rewilding centre at Dundreggan in 2022, with over 50,000 visitors expected each year to explore the wild landscapes, discover Gaelic culture, and learn about the region’s unique wildlife. For further information go to www.treesforlife.org.uk.