Golden eagles return to rewilding estate

Golden eagle 1000

Golden eagles: A nest in the Cairngorms. © Mark Hamblin

A new chick has been reared on Dundreggan for the first time in 40 years

13th August 2020 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

A pair of golden eagles have successfully reared a chick on a Highlands rewilding estate for the first time in 40 years.

The chick flew from its nest on the Dundreggan estate for the first time last week, some five years after Trees for Life set up an eyrie at the site.

Working alongside conservationist Roy Dennis MBE of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, the charity hoped that by building the artificial nest they could entice the raptors back to the estate, situated between Loch Ness and Skye.

Now their efforts have paid off with the first confirmed breeding pair on the estate since 1980.

Doug Gilbert, Trees for Life’s Dundreggan manager, said: “This is a rewilding success story beyond our wildest dreams. I’ve been checking the eyrie regularly since we built it in 2015, hoping to see evidence that the eagles had returned – and now they have.

“As golden eagles may use their nesting sites for generations, we’re hoping they are back for the long-term. Four decades without golden eagles breeding or establishing themselves in this part of our wild and beautiful Highland glen have been four decades too long.

“When we built the artificial nest, we knew it was in a good location for eagles because we found the remains of an old nest at the site. We’ve been keeping our fingers crossed for the past five years, and it’s wonderful that our efforts have paid off like this.”

Highland Raptor Study Group member and golden eagle expert Stuart Benn said the confirmation of a new chick was “terrific news”, adding: “Eagles are undergoing a marked expansion in the Highlands just now, recolonising ground they haven’t been on for many years and even colonising some completely new areas.”

The golden eagle is the UK’s second-largest bird of prey, after the white-tailed eagle. It is native to Britain, but centuries of persecution saw it driven into extinction in England and Wales by the mid-1800s. The bird has been making a slow recovery in Scotland, though it continues to be threatened by illegal persecution, with annual reports of golden eagles being shot, poisoned or having their nests robbed.

 The fourth national golden eagle survey, published in 2016, showed that Scotland’s population of the birds had increased to 508 pairs, a rise of 15% since 2003.