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.
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.
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.
breeding pairs in the UK
average food needed per day
birds killed illegally since 1981
Discover more about where golden eagles live, the threats they face, and some stories of hope that show we can preserve nature if we take action.
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Our nature – including golden eagles – is being pushed to the brink by the changing climate, pollution, mismanagement and more. Only by knowing the threats can we work to protect our wild isles.
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.