South of Scotland golden eagle population reaches new heights thanks to novel research technique - NatureScot

GoldenEagle (c) Lorne Gill SNH
GoldenEagle (c) Lorne Gill SNH

Partnership news release

The pioneering South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project has become the first in the UK to successfully translocate free-flying young golden eagles (aged between 6 months and 3 years) to boost a low population of this iconic bird. These new additions bring the total number of golden eagles in the south of Scotland to around 33 – the highest number recorded here in the last three centuries.

Taking a new research approach, under licence from NatureScot, the team leading the groundbreaking charity project revealed today (World Wildlife Day - Thursday 3 March) that they had successfully caught, transported and released seven golden eagles from the Outer Hebrides. The Outer Hebrides were selected as the source to boost the south of Scotland population because these Islands host one of the highest densities of golden eagles in Europe. The birds were released almost immediately on arrival in a secret location in the southern uplands of Scotland.

The project team is continuing to monitor the birds’ progress to see if they settle and breed in the area. If they do, this could be a groundbreaking for the project.

Throughout the process, the project team followed NatureScot’s strict novel-research guidelines which were assessed by Scotland’s Nature Agency against the Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations. Only a small number of projects have used this technique. If successful it could be used further to support wider raptor conservation programmes.

The team has previously (from 2018 to 2021) successfully released 12 young eagles collected as chicks from nests in the Highlands and Islands. This is a process that is much more widely used for raptor conservation programmes. The released eagles have all settled in south of Scotland, with frequent sightings of interactions including with other native eagles.

Explaining the significance of the most recent translocation, Dr Cat Barlow, Project Manager for the Project said: “This new novel-research licence has provided a significant boost in our efforts to ensure golden eagles truly flourish in southern skies. Though it is still early days, this is the first in the UK to trial this approach as part of raptor reinforcement. This could be a groundbreaking technique for the global conservation management of golden eagles and other raptors. We will continue to monitor these birds to see if they settle, thrive and breed in the south of Scotland, which will be the real measure of success.

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Posted On: 03/03/2022

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