Golden Eagle

Eryr euriad - Aqulia chrysaetos

Golden Eagles inhabit a wide range of habitats across the globe. The Golden Eagle can be found throughout Eurasia and North America and are considered as a generalist species across their range. We do have the privilege to observe the Golden Eagle in Britain, found at low densities, primarily in remote areas of the Scottish Highland and most of the Hebrides. A handful of breeding pairs survive in south-west Scotland, while there are current efforts to restore breeding numbers by the South of Scotland Golden Eagle project. Northern Ireland also secure a reintroduced population of Golden Eagles.

Wales lost the Golden Eagle in 1850 due to human persecution, the last breeding pair bred in the remote mountains of Snowdonia, Gwynedd, North Wales. It has been over 150 years since Golden Eagles last bred in Wales, and during the Golden Eagle’s absence the habitat and the way we use our land has also significantly changed during this time. Despite historic human persecution being the core reason for many of regional extinctions and population declines across Britain, it still remains a problem in their current ranges. There is no doubt that human persecution has significantly decreased compared to the historic rates across Britain, but recorded incidents still remain over 350 birds of prey being killed in Scotland every between 2012-2017 (RSPB 2018), with an estimated 30-40 eagles estimated to be killed every year in Scotland (based on population estimates).


The deliberate persecution and incidental disturbance by certain industries in their core British range is the primary reason why we do not have Golden Eagles naturally colonizing southern Britain. This is a big concern for the conservation goals of our British Golden Eagle. Despite the Golden eagle not listed on the Biodiversity Action Plan for Britain, there is a long-term conservation framework which monitors population progress. One of these objectives is to restore the historic range of Golden Eagles across Britain. While this conservation framework has been in place for over half a decade, there is one main objective that is not being met -breeding distribution and their natural dispersal and this is all attributed to the high mortality rates of young Golden Eagles due to the illegal killings of such birds. Persecution hot-spots across Britain are creating ecological traps, stopping these rural natural corridors from being naturally used by wildlife.

Golden Eagle’s become extinct in southern Britain way before they could suffer from organochlorine pesticides. However across Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, eagles suffered badly from pesticides such a DDT which concentrated in their bodies causing widespread infertility and eggshell thinning. Organochlorine pesticides have now been banned and the Golden Eagle population has slowly recovered in some areas, although similar to the UK, large tracts of its former range are still unoccupied. The recovery of the Golden eagle is of international and national importance.

The Golden Eagle is an ‘amber’ listed European and UK Species of Conservation Concern (SCC). While the Golden Eagle does not have a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), there is no clear conservation case for a translocation from Scotland to Wales. We do however have a biological reasoning as without help the Golden Eagle would not recolonize Wales naturally for the foreseeable future. There is a clear need for a UK Biodiversity Action Plan for Golden Eagles.

Thus, with no formal BAP requirements for the UK Golden Eagle any proposed welsh reintroduction would not be part of a recognized UK BAP project or a formal species recovery programme. However, A reintroduction of Golden Eagle to Wales can be considered of national conservation importance for the long-term security for the species in the UK and will also play a big role in conserving our welsh culture, biodiversity and heritage.