White-tailed eagle to return to the Isle of Wight

Britain’s largest bird of prey is set to return to Southern England after an absence of almost 240 years.

Sea eagle

The distinctive white-tailed eagle was once widespread across Southern England until persecution in the eighteenth century saw the species wiped out.

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Now plans to return the white-tailed eagles to the Isle of Wight have taken a step forward with a licence to reintroduce the species granted to The Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England by Natural England.

Sea eagle

As part of the five-year reintroduction programme, which forms part of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, young birds, bred in the wild in Scotland, will be reintroduced on Forestry England woodland on the Isle of Wight.

The last known breeding place in the region recorded at Culver Cliff on the Isle of Wight in 1780.

Roy Dennis, Founder of The Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, said: “White-tailed eagles were once a common sight in England and southern Europe but were lost centuries ago. This project aims to reverse that situation by restoring the eagles to their ancestral nesting places.”

The young birds will be released once they are familiar with their new home and will initially be fed to encourage them to settle along the South Coast. It will take several years for the young birds to become established and breeding is not expected to start until at least 2024. During this time the birds will be closely monitored using satellite tracking devices.

Bruce Rothnie, South Forest Management Director, at Forestry Englandsaid: “Our woodlands provide a haven for wildlife and we hope that they will become home to these incredible birds on the Isle of Wight. This long-term project is a great opportunity to help to restore the white-tailed eagle to the South Coast of England and we are proud to be involved in helping to bring back this rarest of birds to Britain.”

Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight ©Getty

The Isle of Wight was chosen thanks to its numerous potential nesting sites in woods and cliffs, and proximity to suitable foraging areas for fish and other food in the Solent and surrounding estuaries.

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It is also hoped the birds will spread along the coast, also helping to link up existing populations of white-tailed eagles living in Ireland and the Netherlands.