Eagle explorations

The satellite data continues to provide a fascinating insight into the movements of the four juvenile White-tailed Eagles that we released on the Isle of Wight last August in partnership with Forestry England. While two of the birds, G318 and G324, have remained in their favoured areas in the North York Moors and the Isle of Wight respectively, the two male birds, G274 and G393, have continued to explore since our last update. Here is an account of these most recent travels by Tim Mackrill.


In our last update we reported that G274 had flown 163 km (100 miles) west along the South Coast from the Isle of Wight during the afternoon of 15th April. That night he roosted in woodland near the Exe Estuary, and at first light the next morning he flew back along the coast to Sidmouth and spent an hour perched in trees at Sidmouth Golf Course, perhaps looking for rabbits, which we know constitutes a key part of the diet of the young eagles. At 09:00 he resumed his journey, flying north over Honiton at an altitude of 320 metres at 10:45 and then pausing for 50 minutes beside some small lakes near Rawridge. He crossed into Somerset at 13:00, and 40 minutes later was over the M5 approaching Taunton at an altitude of 559 metres. He skirted around the east side of the city and then continued on a north-easterly track, passing low over Avalon Marshes and then across the west side of Westhay Moor NNR in the Somerset Levels – undoubtedly a potential future breeding area for White-tailed Eagles.

G274 made a distinct turn to the east-south-east upon reaching Cheddar at 15:40, pausing for 25 minutes a short while later, and then crossing into Wiltshire at 17:45. He eventually settled to roost in Southleigh Wood to the south of Warminster at 19:15 after a day’s flight of 150 km (93 miles).

G274’s change of direction in Somerset indicating he was heading back to the Isle of Wight, and on the morning of 18th April he left his roost south of Warminster at 05:40 and again headed south-east along the Wylye valley. However, the weather was poor and G274 spent much of the day perched in two different arable fields between Warminster and Salisbury, perhaps having found some carrion. When he eventually settled to roost in woodland just to the north-west of Salisbury, he had only flown 18 km (12 miles). Remarkably he spent the night 1 km from a favoured roost site of G318 during her stay in Wiltshire in March.

Next morning G274 continued south-east towards Salisbury, passing to the west of the city at 07:50 at an altitude of 123 metres. He crossed into Hampshire and then spent two hours perched beside the River Avon at Fordingbridge from 09:50. When he resumed his journey, G274 zig-zagged his way across the New Forest, generally flying at altitudes of between 150 and 300 metres. He passed over Brockenhurst at 14:36 and then crossed the Solent from Lymington back to the Isle of Wight half an hour later. That night he roosted in one of his favourite woodlands after a day’s flight of 96 km (60 miles), having flown 427 km (265 miles) on his four-day exploration around the south-west. It is very significant that he again returned to the Isle of Wight after this long flight – indicating that he now regards the Island as home.

G274 flew 427 km (265 miles) around south-west England from 15th-18th April

G274 has remained on the Isle of Wight since, and both he and G324 have again been seen hunting mullet in one of the estuaries on the Island. Studies of White-tailed Eagle diet around Europe demonstrate that they preferentially take fish when they are available and it is encouraging to see G274 behaving in this way. There is no doubt that the estuaries around the coast of the Isle of Wight, and in the wider Solent region, will provide a valuable food source for the eagles in years to come.


Unlike G274 who has returned to the Isle of Wight after his flights around south-east and south-west England, G393 has been much more nomadic, spending the winter in Oxfordshire and then wandering widely across England in recent weeks.

In our previous update we reported that the young male roosted near Needham Market in Suffolk on the evening of 15thApril. He remained in the local area until 11:00 the next morning and then headed north-west, passing over Bury St Edmunds at an altitude of 372 metres at 12:06. At 13:51 he was over the Ouse Washes at Manea – flying at an altitude of 124 metres – and half an hour later he returned to the Nene Washes, a superb RSPB wetland reserve that he had visited briefly two days earlier. He remained there for the rest of the afternoon, having flown 98 km during the course of the day.

G393 flew from Needham Market in Suffolk to the Nene Washes near Peterborough on 16th April, a flight of 98 km (61 miles)

G393 remained at his roost site until 10:50 on the morning of 17th April, before flying a short distance to March Farmers on the Nene Washes, where large numbers of wintering wildfowl were still lingering. He spent an hour there before heading east along the washes. At 14:20 he was seen circling high and then drifting west by Charlie Kitchin, the RSPB Site Manager, and the satellite data shows he continued west across Peterborough, passing just to the north of Ferry Meadows Country Park at an altitude of 803 metres. He then settled for the night in Castor Hanglands – a large woodland a few kilometres to the west of Peterborough.

G393 has begun his first moult – with an obvious gap in his inner secondaries (photo by Tim Melling)

After a run of fine weather, rain on the morning of 18th April meant that G393 remained in the Castor Hanglands area all morning. He moved 4 km north-west as the weather cleared around midday and was perched in an arable field to the east of Wittering for just under two hours from 12:20, where he may have found some carrion. From there he flew a few kilometres north to a woodland near Stamford, and roosted there.

G393 was active soon after first light on 19th April and made a short flight to Burghley Park on the outskirts of Stamford. He then headed slowly west through Rutland, passing over the North Arm of Rutland Water (where he spent two nights in early April) between 11:00 and 11:20, before flying north-west over Melton Mowbray. Interestingly, we later learned from Josh Jones at Birdguides, that another White-tailed Eagle – which had been heading north from Peterborough – made a sudden change of course when it was over West Deeping. At this point it was less than 32 km (20 miles) east of G393, suggesting the sight of another eagle may have instigated its shift of flight track to the west. This second bird was likely one of the various immature White-tailed Eagles present in southern England during March and April.

At 13:18 G393 was flying a north at an altitude of 395 metres over Holme Pierrepont beside the River Trent on the east side of Nottingham. With a stiff easterly wind for encouragement, he continued north-west through Nottinghamshire and then Derbyshire, passing over Sutton-in-Ashfield at an altitude of 1051 metres at 14:30 and then skirting around the east of Chesterfield half an hour later at a lower altitude of 255 metres. He continued on across the Peak District, passing over Ladybower reservoir at 15:45, and then over Glossop 40 minutes later at an altitude of 421 metres. He continued flying until 18:50 when he eventually settled to roost on a wooded hillside in the north of the Peak District, having flown 188 km (117 miles). He has remained in the Peak District since, and his satellite data provides a fascinating insight into his minute-by-minute movements. It will be very interesting to see how long G393 remains there. If the past few weeks are anything to go by, it may not be that long.

G393 flew 188 km (117 miles) from Stamford in south Lincolnshire to the northern Peak District on 19th April

In addition to the movements of the Isle of Wight birds, there have been further sightings of other White-tailed Eagle that are likely birds from continental Europe. It seems probable that both G393 and G318 have recently encountered other eagles in Cambridgeshire and North Yorkshire respectively and another immature White-tailed Eagle was photographed near Preston yesterday. A key aim of the Isle of Wight project is to help link up the expanding White-tailed Eagle populations in continental Europe with those in the Isle of Wight as well as Scotland and Ireland, and it is very encouraging to see the upturn in sightings this spring. The satellite data is shedding new light on how young White-tailed Eagles learn the landscape and it is quite clear that the other eagles being seen across England are behaving in a very similar way to the Isle of Wight birds. If you are fortunate to see a White-tailed Eagle over your home or garden then please report it using our online form, but please do remember to stay at home at the present time.

G393 flew from Suffolk to the Peak District between 16th and 19th April