Species Recovery

White-tailed sea eagles were once a common sight around Britain.  However, in the last millenium they suffered massive declines.  Draining of land and felling of forests for agriculture reduced the amount of available habitat in England and Wales and the remaining few birds were persecuted or bounty hunted.  The last breeding pair in England was thought to be on the Isle of Man in 1818.  They persisted much longer in Scotland, but here persecution was the biggest threat.  The increase in sheep farming and movement of the human population to coastal areas where sea eagles still survived led to further conflict, with poisoning rife.  Egg collection and bounty hunting ensured the final extinction of the species, with lastbreeding in 1916.

However, thanks to a successful reintroduction programme the species is now back breeding in Scotland and there are active hopes regarding its potential reintroduction to England and Wales.

Photo by Laurie Campbell

Roy Dennis was involved with the rearing and release of 4 young Norwegian sea eagles on the island of Fair Isle, while warden at the bird observatory. This failed to establish breeding eagles as did a 1959 release of three sea eagles in glencoe by Pat Sandeman. A successful reintroduction to the west coast of Scotland was carried out by the Nature Conservancy on Rum between 1975 and 1985, with a further release at Loch Maree in the 1990s and  in 2007 a reintroduction to the east coast of Scotland began in Fife.  There have been plans to reintroduce the species to England, with East Anglia identified as a potential location, but the project fell through, with Natural England withdrawing its financial commitment.  The Irish White-tailed Sea Eagle Programme was initiated in 2007 and is doing well, with the first breeding in 2012 and ten pairs in 2018.

We are strong advocates that sea eagles should be restored to all areas where they used to occur in the UK, as well as in southern and western Europe.  Roy Dennis is on the Scottish and UK Sea-Eagle Team, and been involved in discussions about future releases in the British Isles.  He has also recommended their restoration to England and advised on the feasibility of restoring sea eagles to East Anglia and Wales, given practical assistance with the reintroduction to County Kerry, Ireland and given advice on similar projects in Spain, Gibraltar and France. We are currently exploring the feasibility of a reintroduction project on the Isle of Wight – click here for more.

To view further information on the Scotland and Irish reintroductions click on the relevant links on the left.