Golden eagle chicks released in ‘groundbreaking' relocation project
Golden eagle chicks have been successfully released in southern Scotland in the first of a “groundbreaking” series of relocations.
Three of the young birds of prey – named Edward, Beaky and Emily – have been moved from the Highlands to a secret location.
The £1.3 million project comes as part of efforts to tackle low numbers of golden eagles in the Southern Uplands.
Mark Oddy, chairman of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, said: “Arguably Scotland’s most iconic bird, in recent decades the south Scotland golden eagle population has been small and fragmented.
“We want to give it a helping hand to overcome problems in the past which have limited the size and viability of the population.
“It is amazing to see the first of our chicks now settling down and soaring majestically above the Moffat Hills.”
Golden eagles are the second largest bird in the UK, beaten only by the white-tailed eagle.
They tend to live in wild, open moorlands and mountains across Scotland, with a preference for islands and remote glens.
Raptor workers in the Highlands collected the three chicks from Scottish Natural Heritage and took them to their new home in a confidential location in the Moffat Hills.
The birds were then cared for in specially-designed release aviaries and fed through the autumn/winter period to help them adjust to their new habitat, before their release.
They were adopted and officially named by children from Moffat Primary School, St Peters Primary School in Galashiels and Priorsford Primary School in Peebles.
The schools will continue to support the project while other local schools will be given an opportunity to name future chicks.
Two further chick relocations are currently planned.
Volunteers are now being urged to support the project staff and Scottish Raptor Study Group members in monitoring and recording sightings of the birds.
Project manager Cat Barlow added: “We are thrilled to welcome our first golden eagle chicks and to see people in the south of Scotland really rallying to promote this wonderful area for wildlife.
“In the years ahead many hundreds of people will have the opportunity, through trails, events and CCTV, to learn more about the golden eagle and its role in Scotland’s biodiversity.
“I hope it will continue to inspire and empower them to safeguard its existence for future generations.”