Sea eagles set free in East Scotland

Nineteen sea eagles have been released into the wild from a secret location in Fife.

The raptors were reintroduced as part of a project between RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland.

The birds arrived from Norway in June for the fourth year of the East Scotland Sea Eagle reintroduction project.

Scotland’s white-tailed sea eagle population has been growing since the start of the project, which aims to restore the species in the east of the country.

The birds were driven to extinction in 1916 and only returned to the UK in 1975, which they were successfully reintroduced on the Island of Rum in western Scotland.

The reintroduction of the birds of prey to Scotland – as well as other parts of the UK, including East Anglia – has been dogged with controversy.

Farmers and crofters on the Gairloch peninsula in North West Scotland blamed the raptors for killing more than 200 lambs the year after they were reintroduced.

The losses were so dramatic they initially thought rustlers were to blame.

Other farmers claim the birds of prey target outdoor pigs and poultry.

A report from the Food and Environment Research Agency found that reintroducing the birds had minimal impact on lamb mortality.

But it said there were a variety of circumstances where sea eagles might conflict with farming interests.

It said farmers should be paid for extra-shepherding costs, the planting of woodland and provision of artificial shelters.