The white-tailed eagle is the largest bird of prey found in the U.K. 

By Ally Mauch
May 06, 2020 02:13 PM
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A White Tailed Sea Eagle (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
| Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty

The white-tailed eagle — the largest bird of prey in the U.K. — has been seen flying in English skies for the first time in 240 years.

Last summer, six of the birds were taken from Scotland and placed on the Isle of Wight, an island off the southern coast of England, by the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England.

Now that spring has arrived, the birds have been spotted in Norfolk, Kent, and Somerset counties in England. They have been fitted with GPS trackers so the team working on the program can track their progress.

"Four of the birds have learned that the Isle Of Wight is their home," Roy Dennis, of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, told Newsweek. "This week, they have proved they are catching [fish] so it's very encouraging."

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Dennis said the foundation hopes the birds, which have a wingspan of up to eight feet, will breed and rebuild the population of white-tailed eagles in England.

"The two on the Isle Of Wight [are] already behaving like a pair. If those two survive, they might breed on the Isle Of Wight," he said. "It's a long journey, they don't breed until they're four and they are truly wild birds so we're not in control."

White-tailed eagles were reintroduced in Scotland in the 1970s but have not been seen in England since 1780. They remain on the red list of U.K. birds of conservation concern, meaning they are among the highest conservation priority.

Despite their massive size, Dennis said the birds are no risk to humans, adding that the reintroduction of the long-lost eagle has left people "overjoyed." Anyone who sees the white-tailed eagle can help with tracking by reporting the sighting on the foundation's website.

"It's a huge eagle in a time when people have forgotten about all the evidence for them. People are overjoyed," Dennis said. "They can see them from their homes. You shouldn't have to go to a nature reserve to see nature. To be able to see a white-tailed eagle on your way to work, that's fantastic."