Exciting local sightings of White-tailed ‘Sea’ Eagles released from the Isle of Wight

sea eagle and red kite

If you have seen a big bird in the sky recently, much bigger than our local heavies the red kite, you haven’t been dreaming. It was probably a White-tailed Eagle (also known as a Sea Eagle), the UK’s largest bird of prey, with a huge wing span of up to 2.5 metres. 

According to the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, White-tailed Eagles were once widespread along the whole of the South Coast of England, from Cornwall to Kent, before being driven to extinction by relentless persecution that began in the Middle Ages. The last pair bred on Culver Cliff on the Isle of Wight in 1780. 

White-tailed Eagles have been re-introduced to Scotland where there are now over 130 breeding pairs and are now being re-introduced to the Isle of Wight with a licence from Natural England and in partnership with the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England. 

Re-establishing a population of White-tailed Eagles on the South Coast will restore a lost species (and return the eagle to England for the first time in 240 years), and help to link populations in Scotland and Ireland with those in the Netherlands and France.

Adult eagles have white tails and heads. Photo: Mike Crutch

Eagles in our area

Up to 60 juvenile eagles will be released from the Isle of Wight between 2019 and 2024. Before being released the birds are fitted with small satellite trackers so their progress across the UK can be closely monitored. See latest updates here on all the eagles that have been released so far (13 birds as of March 2021).

The eagle in the top image was photographed by Karen Drew in Chilton Foilat on Satuday 27 February 2021. 

The Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation have confirmed that this bird is G471, one of juvenile eagles released on the Isle of Wight in 2020. G471 spent pretty much all winter roaming widely around Devon/Cornwall but in the past week he has been on the move north-east. 

He passed through Chilton Foliat at 11:20am, getting a lot of attention from local red kites. He was also sighted in Inkpen and Newbury and by the end of the day he was in south-east Oxfordshire.

sea eagle and red kite flock

White-tailed Eagles do not breed until they are around five years of age. It is hoped that a small population of 6-8 pairs will become established on the Isle of Wight and in the wider Solent area, with birds spreading east and west along the South Coast thereafter. Evidence from Scotland indicates that the young White-tailed Eagles will wander widely before they breed, before eventually settling within around 50 km of the release site.

According to Roy Dennis they have learnt to catch grey mullet and cuttlefish, and they also hunt rabbits and weak Canada geese. They will also scavenge roadkill.

More Information

For more information about the eagles, including their impact on existing wildlife and livestock please see these FAQs.

Can you help?

If you spot an eagle, please report it to the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation here. You can also tag @seaeagleengland on twitter.

Satellite tracking is a key element of the project, and a core cost that needs to be covered. Donations of any amount make a big difference, and so if you are able to make a contribution, please donate here and select White-tailed Eagle project when prompted. 


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