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Norwegian Eagles Get Used to Their Kilts

Bird On! News
7th August 1996

The joint Scottish Natural Heritage and RSPB team are starting to release this year's young White-tailed Eagles imported from wild nests in Norway. The birds are released in wild country in the West of Scotland after a few weeks getting used to the area.

Ten birds were brought in although the birds in the wild in Norway did not have a very good breeding season and there was real doubt whether the Norwegians could let us have the full ten. This year has, by contrast, been excellent and there may have been as many as ten birds reared in the wild - with the first chick both of whose parents were reared in the wild from imported birds.

However all is not rosy. Readers of Bird-On! will know that research was done to show that extra birds were needed to make sure that there is a viable population in Scotland. This is agreed and on course. However there is real opposition from sheep farmers who are objecting to alleged lamb stealing. They believe that the carcases found in the eyries are lambs which would otherwise have survived.

As many as 24 different carcases have been found in one nest and his would seem to be conclusive. However this is certainly not the case as the eagles are lazy birds and would certainly not go to the trouble of taking a live lamb being defended by its mother if a dead lamb was available. It is likely that many of the carcases were already dead - or at least non-viable and on the way out. In many cases there is a severe problem of over-stocking with sheep because of the way subsidies are paid. The conservationists think that the magnificent bird should have a place in Scottish skies and, if necessary and damage is proved, the farmers should be properly compensated for losses to their sheep.

What is absolutely unacceptable would be rogue members of the farming community by taking the law into their own hand and shooting the birds. This would be a criminal act as the birds are specially protected under schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. There have already been losses to the eagles stocks through illegal poisoning and, possibly, shooting. These birds are enjoyed by huge numbers of people and it is incredibly arrogant of the few to spoil the enjoyment of the many.

Chris Mead

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