The Sea Eagle or White-tailed Eagle is now re-established as a breeding species in Scotland following reintroduction projects to both the west and east coasts.

Photo by Laurie Campbell

West Coast Reintroduction

After an absence of about 50 years as a breeding species, the late Pat Sandeman released three sea eagles in Argyll in 1959 and later George Waterston arranged for four young sea eagles from Norway to be released on Fair Isle in 1968.   Roy Dennis, the then warden of Fair Isle Bird Observatory carried out the reintroduction and although all birds were successfully reared and released, it did not lead to breeding.

Young eaglet almost ready for release

A full-scale reintroduction was started by the Nature Conservancy (now Scottish Natural Heritage) in 1975 on the island of Rum, where sea eagles had last bred in 1907.   Over the next ten years 82 eaglets (39 males and and 43 females) were translocated from Norway.  The first successful breeding occurred in in 1985 on Mull, from which our present population stems (see the book ” The Return of the Sea Eagle” Cambridge University Press, 1983, by John Love, the Project Officer).  However, population increase was slow and so between 1993 and 1998 a further 58 eaglets were translocated from Norway to Wester Ross.

There are now over 50 breeding pairs on the West coast of Scotland, with Mull and Skye the strongholds.

East Coast Reintroduction

The next phase of reestablishment of the Scottish sea eagle population began in 2007 with the start of the East Scotland Sea Eagle project (ESSE).  This aims to restore the species to east and central Scotland, on both coastlines and lowland wetlands and lochs.  In August 2007 15 young sea eagles from Norway were released into the Tay area and 63 have been released up to 2010.  Sea eagles take five years to breed, so the first breeding attempts should hopefully be seen over the next couple of years.

For further information on the ESSE project click on the following link to visit the RSPB’s website: