First white-tailed eagle chick in Orkney for 140 years

A white-tailed eagle chick has successfully hatched in Orkney – for the first time in 140 years.

The bird, also known and more recognised as a sea eagle, is the first to hatch following unsuccessful nesting attempts in 2015 and 2016 by its parents in Hoy.

Lee Shields, RSPB Scotland’s Hoy Warden, said: “It’s fantastic that the eggs laid in spring have hatched, the first successful breeding season here since the 19th century.

“This breeding attempt is still at the early stages, with young often in the nest for up to 14 weeks. Everybody was so excited when the first pair arrived and we’ve been keeping our fingers crossed for this ever since.

“We were hugely disappointed when a previous pair abandoned the territory last year, so to have at least one chick now is even more special.”

Sea eagles were reintroduced to Orkney five years ago after an absence spanning some 95 years.

A national reintroduction programme in the 1970s has seen sea eagles successfully become mainstays of the UK wildlife scene after the species was totally wiped out in 1918, when the last known bird was shot on Shetland.

It is not known whether the pair of sea eagles in Hoy are from the Scottish mainland or if they have travelled from Scandinavia.

Mr Shields added: “Even though they hadn’t nested here since 1873, white-tailed eagles have long been associated with Orkney’s natural and cultural heritage.

“Our RSPB Scotland reserve in Hoy is already home to hen harriers, great skuas, red-throated divers and more, so to see the eagles return backs up just how special this environment is.

“Now we’re just hoping that the chicks do well as it’s always uncertain with first-time parents.”

An Eaglewatch programme is being run by the RSPB Scotland from Dwarfie Stone car park allowing visitors and keen bird watchers to capture a glimpse of the chick and parents.

The first successful breeding of sea eagles following their reintroduction in the UK took place in 1985 on the Isle of Mull, and the majestic birds can be found on a number of islands across the west coast.

With sea eagles also being introduced to Wester Ross and Fife, it is estimated Scotland now has over 100 breeding pairs of the birds of prey.