Golden eagles

Elusive raptors making a comeback

We almost lost golden eagles in the UK just a few decades ago, and even now they can only be found in a few remote places. With our help, they could soar right across our wild isles once more.

Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) in flight near Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK
© James Roddie

Elusive raptors

These large, shy birds once lived all over the UK, but as big predators golden eagles were targeted by sheep farmers and shooting estates, with egg and skin collectors only making things worse. By 1850, they had vanished from England and Wales, only clinging on in small numbers in remote Highland glens in Scotland.

Exposure to a pesticide called organochlorine in the 1950s and 1960s caused further harm. As people became aware of the danger, they took action, voluntarily withdrawing from using this pesticide before a total ban in 1982. Because of this, and new legal protection, the UK's small population of golden eagles began to recover.

Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) in flight near Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK
© James Roddie

Cautious comeback

Today, there are more than 500 pairs of golden eagles in the UK, and they are no longer in severe decline. Thanks to reintroductions, they are now breeding in both Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, and there have been sightings in Northern Ireland.

But while golden eagles have been moved to the UK Green List of Conservation Concern, they’re still under threat. A total of 68 have been illegally killed in Scotland since 1981, most of them poisoned on grouse moors. As these crimes happen in remote places with few people to witness them, it’s likely the true number is much higher.

With help, golden eagles are slowly making a comeback in Scotland. And there are plenty more quiet places in our wild isles that could offer these reclusive birds a home. We need to make sure they have enough food and spaces to nest as their numbers continue to climb, and that they are protected from those who might wish them harm.

Golden eagles in numbers


breeding pairs in the UK


average food needed per day


birds killed illegally since 1981

How will you Go Wild Once a Week?

Our wildlife is amazing - but it’s in crisis. WWF, the RSPB and the National Trust are working together to bring nature back from the brink. We need everyone. Find out how you can go wild once a week and together we can save our wild isles.