Returning home

Over recent decades ringing, wing-tagging and, most recently, satellite-tagging has revealed the extent to which young White-tailed Eagles wander during the first two years of their life. These early explorations, before young birds are old enough to breed, are a crucial part of the learning process. Research in Scotland has shown that immature birds frequently venture 200 km or more from their natal nest, but recent advances in satellite tracking have shed further light on the degree of wanderlust some young White-tailed Eagles seem to possess. This has been clear in the explorations of the young White-tailed Eagles from the Isle of Wight, as Tim Mackrill explains.


All four of the White-tailed Eagles that we released on the Isle of Wight in partnership with Forestry England in 2019 have ranged widely during their first year, and none more so than G324. At the beginning of June the young female, who had remained on the Isle of Wight for the whole of her first winter, flew first to Northumberland and then to the southern shore of the Firth of Forth near North Berwich, some 370 miles north of the Isle of Wight. She subsequently spent two months in and around the Lammermuir Hills in East Lothian, favouring the lower slopes of the hills where rabbits are numerous. We wondered how long she would remain in southern Scotland and even whether she might continue further north and encounter other White-tailed Eagles from the Scottish population. Our hope, of course, was that at some point she would return south to the Isle of Wight. Prior to her flight to Northumerland she had only made one six-day excursion away from the Island – to North Norfolk and back – and so we felt it likely she would return at some stage. And that is exactly what has now happened. Earlier today she was seen back at the release site on the Isle of Wight, having flown just under 400 miles south back to the Isle of Wight over the course of the last fortnight.

Having been present in and around the Lammermuir Hills since 28th June, G324 began moving south on 26thAugust. She spent two days six miles south-east of Jedburgh before crossing the English border on 29thAugust and spending much of the day a few miles east of Kielder Water.  Next day she flew another 30 miles south before roosting beside Westernhope Burn in Weardale, County Durham.

It was now clear that the young female was making a determined move to the south and on 31st August she passed Barnard Castle at 1pm and then Thirsk two hours after that, at an altitude of 1200 metres. That night she roosted in a small wood north-east of Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire, having flown 54 miles. Interestingly another of the Isle of Wight birds, G318, who had been present in the North York Moors since 5th April headed west to the Yorkshire Dales that day and passed just to the south of the area where G324 roosted, earlier in the morning (see below).   

G324 flight 26th August – 2nd September

G324 lingered in farmland north-east of Boroughbridge close to the River Swale for the next two days, but then made another concerted move to the south on 3rd September. She was south-west of York at 1pm, flying at just 60 metres and then passed over the River Ouse at Goole shortly after 2pm. That night she roosted in farmland west of Kirton in Lindsey, south of Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire, having flown 54 miles from North Yorkshire.   

G324 2nd – 5th September

On 4th September G324 flew another 15 miles further south and roosted in a small wood on the north-west side of Lincoln. She continued south the next morning passing through Rutland and then into Northamptonshire, before roosting in Wakerley Great Wood, five miles north-east of Corby. Next morning she was seen soon after leaving her roost – the first confirmed sighting since she had flown south from Scotland – and then she continued south through Northamptonshire and into Bedfordshire. At 12:30 she was seen circling close to Brogborough Lake by Neil Wright and his bother, Paul. They watched her for around 25 minutes soaring in thermals before they lost her from view, heading south. Paul kindly sent us the photo below.

G324 was photographed by Neil Wright in Bedfordshire on 6th September

She then passed over Leighton Buzzard at an altitude of 640 metres at 1:50pm, before continuing south-west through Buckinghamshire and then into Berkshire. She passed to the east of Henley on Thames and eventually settled to roost in woodland in Stanlake Park just to the east of Reading, having flown 80 miles during the course of the day.   

On 7th September she flew another 34 miles further south and then roosted in woodland at Midhurst Common in the South Downs. She remained in the local area all day, and then yesterday was photographed over Meonstoke in Hampshire by Thomas Mills, and was also seen over nearby Lovedean near Waterlooville by Alan Key, as she made her way back to the Isle of Wight.

G324 and three Red Kites over Meonstoke on 9th September (photo by Thomas Mills)
G324 5th -7th September

We wondered whether G324 would visit the release site once she was back on the Isle of Wight, and sure enough, she has been seen there with this year’s released juveniles and G274, this morning by Lucy Allen who has provided some valuable assistance to Project Officer Steve Egerton-Read in recent weeks.

G324 took advantage of a free meal at the release site this morning

It is going to be fascinating to see how G324 behaves over the coming days now she is back on the Isle of Wight. Will she go back to her favourite haunts from last winter, or remain close to the release site with G274 and the 2020 juveniles? Whatever the case, the fact she has returned shows that she regards the Island as home.

G324’s movements since 31st May when she headed north from the Isle of Wight


We reported in our last update that G274 joined this year’s juveniles at the release site as soon as they began flying, and the young male has continued in the same vein in recent weeks. He has visited the release site on an almost daily basis and during this period has been seen catching cuttlefish in the Solent and also black-headed gulls at one of the nearby estuaries. He’s also taken fish put out for this year’s juveniles and often perches with them. Having this more experienced bird with them will provide an excellent learning opportunity for the youngsters, and it will be fascinating to see if they are now also joined by G324. G274 and G324 spent nine months together on the Isle of Wight before the female headed north to Scotland on 31st May.

G274 is an excellent role model for this year’s translocated birds (photo by Pete Box)


Having spent much of the spring and summer in the North York Moors, G393 flew south to Leicestershire and Rutland in July and then to Norfolk on 1st August. The young male has remained in Norfolk since, ranging fairly widely in the north, and most recently, west of the county. During this period he spent one eight day period at the West Acre estate where a large rewilding project is underway. During a visit to the estate on 1st September in the company of Fraser Bradbury, we found the remains of three Black-headed Gulls and numerous plucked gull feathers underneath a favoured perching location in a group of Scots Pines, close to a small water storage reservoir. Large numbers of gulls congregate on the reservoir on a daily basis and analysis of the satellite tracking data showed G393 spent long periods at the reservoir each day and also in the Scots Pines. It therefore seems very likely that he was catching the gulls – or finding them dead – at the reservoir.

After leaving West Acre, G393 visited the Ken Hill Estate near Heacham. Ken Hill is the site of another fantastic rewilding project and it was excellent to see the bird with Harry and Dominic Buscall and other members of the Wild Ken Hill team during the evening of 1st September. G393 has remained in West Norfolk since, favouring quiet wooded areas, although he made one flight out onto the saltmarshes of the Wash on 6th September and another earlier today. 

G393 at Ken Hill (photo by Tim Mackrill)


G318 arrived in the North York Moors on the 5th April and during this period she was relatively sedentary, living in quiet valleys and feeding mainly on rabbits. However, she began to range more widely during August and then, on 31st she south towards Wetherby. By 1:30pm she had flown 26 miles south, and at that point she turned to the north-west and headed towards the Yorkshire Dales. Just over an hour later she was over the moors near Lofthouse and that night she roosted in woodland at the north end of Gouthwaite Reservoir having flown 55 miles during the course of the day. Next morning, she headed north-west and flew almost as far as the Cumbria border near Kirkby Stephen. She remained in the local area on 2nd, but then on 3rd September headed east back across the Dales towards Richmond. She has remained in an area just beyond the north-east boundary of the National Park since. Now that G324 has returned to the Isle of Wight, and G393 is in Norfolk, G318 is the most northerly of the four birds released in 2019. It will be interesting to see how much longer she remains in Yorkshire. 

G318 (yellow) and G324 (white) almost crossed paths on 31st August

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