White-tailed Eagle

Eryr y mor - Haliaeetus albicillia

The White-tailed Eagle was fairly common throughout much of Europe until the early 1900s, when numbers started to decrease dramatically, mainly because of human persecution that resulted in the loss of many of the western European populations. The White-tailed Eagle was widespread across Britain in the 18th Century, with over 150 eyries/nest sites known across Britain. including eyries in Wales and England. It is thought that the breeding population of White-tailed Eagles in Wales diminished in 1860, with the last known nest site in Kenfig Burrows, Swansea, West Glamorgan. The species UK extinction can be attributed to the direct and sustained persecution by shepherds, game preservers, fishery owners, skin and egg collectors.

The last UK White-tailed eagle nest was recorded on the Isle of Skye in 1916, and the last UK White-tailed Eagle was later shot in Shetland in 1918 exterminating the full UK population. Fortunately, Scottish National Heritage and the RSPB reintroduced the White-tailed Eagle back to the UK in 1975, taking 82 young eagles from Norway and releasing them on the Isle of Rum over a 10-year period. he reintroduction programme was entitled a success in 1985 when the programme had its first successful breeding pair. Further eagle releases were conducted in 1990 targeting Wester Ross,the population in Scotland is now considered as a self-sustaining population, there are now over 120 breeding pairs in Scotland.


Following the success of the Scottish reintroduction, a reintroduction programme was established in Ireland in 2005, 95 eagles have been released in south-west Ireland, again stocked from Norway. There are now 10 breeding pairs in Ireland and predictions for growth and dispersal are promising. White-tailed Eagle re introductions have been overall extremely successful in Britain, this can be attributed to the species generalized nature. The White-tailed eagle has a generalized diet and habitat preferences, meaning that they have a broad range of prey items and habitats to select from, making them an extremely versatile species.

The White-tailed Eagle is included on the red list of European and UK Species of Conservation Concern (SCC). The species has suffered long-term population declines and since it is categorized as a ‘rare breeder’ in the UK and across Europe, a reintroduction to Wales is vitally important for the national and international conservation of this species. The White-tailed Eagle is not listed on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), however, does have its own UK Species Action Plan (SAC). The long-term objectives of the UK White-tailed Eagle SAP are to -

1) “to seek a recovery of White-tailed Eagle to as much of their former UK range as it is suitable”

2) “to seek the removal factors limiting further natural expansion into all suitable habitat throughout the UK, in particular estuaries, coastal and inland waters.

These SAC objectives have been suggested to be best achieved, in the short-term, by a rolling programme of releases and translocation. Any plan to reintroduce White-tailed eagle to Wales would substantially aid Pan-European efforts to restore the species population numbers and range. Unlike the Golden Eagle, which has no national or international Action Recovery Plan, a White-tailed Eagle reintroduction to Wales would be part of the recognized UK SAP and the global species action plan. It would be if international conservation importance for this remarkable apex predator.