Are golden eagles soaring?

Golden eagle cropped

Scotland's iconic raptors are in the sights of the SNH and RSPB

Graham Martin's photo

13th February 2015 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

A survey into the population health of one of Scotland’s most iconic bird species will be carried out.

Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB Scotland is to conduct a six month study into the number of golden eagles.

The most recent survey in 2003 found the overall number of breeding pairs had increased by 20 to 442 since 1992.

Researchers want to find out whether conservation efforts since then have led to a further increase in numbers.

All of the golden eagles in the UK are found in Scotland, mainly in the Highlands and Islands, except for one male in the Lake District.

Having accurate numbers of breeding pairs will help us assess how the population is faring at the moment and in the future

The golden eagle population has remained stable in recent decades, although long-term monitoring has shown a variation in numbers across different areas.

The 2003 survey found there had been declines of 24% and 28% in the north central and south central Highlands respectively over the previous 20 years.

Places previously inhabited by golden eagles will also be assessed to check for any signs of their return.

Dr Daniel Hayhow, from the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, said: "This national survey is really important to the conservation efforts for golden eagles.

"These birds don't breed until they are four or five years old so having accurate numbers of breeding pairs will help us assess how the population is faring at the moment and in the future."

Golden eagles were once common across Britain but disappeared from Wales and England by the mid 19th century due to persecution.

The population in Scotland suffered a further sharp decline in breeding success in the 1960s due to pesticide use, although numbers have since recovered.