White-tailed eagle chick hatches in Orkney marking a first in more than 140 years

Orkney bird lovers have been waiting since the 19th century for this: a sea eagle chick.

Finally, Orkney has landed its first white-tailed eagle chick and, based on the behaviour of its parents, there may be even be a second chick that has hatched up high on the cliffs of Hoy island, according to RSPB Scotland.

The wildlife charity made the exciting rare bird announcement this week.

“It’s fantastic that the eggs laid in spring have hatched, the first successful breeding season here since the 19th century,” Lee Shields, RSPB Scotland’s Hoy Warden said in a statement. “Even though they hadn’t nested here since 1873, white-tailed eagles have long been associated with Orkney’s natural and cultural heritage.”

Sea eagles were eradicated from the United Kingdom in 1918 after the lest bird was shot in Shetland.

But a reintroduction program starting bringing them back in the 1970s with birds from Norway. There are now more than 100 breedings pairs in Scotland.

The species only reappeared on Orkney five years ago.

And, Hoy has been home to a pair since 2013, but subsequent nesting attempts in 2015 and 2016 failed. This pair is believe to be a first attempt at nesting together. The young often stay in the nest, known as an eyrie, for up to 14 weeks.

“Now we’re just hoping that the chicks do well as it’s always uncertain with first-time parents,” Shields said.

White-tailed eagles off Orkney. Raymond Besant/Orkney.com

Photographer Raymond Besant captured the first images of the parents.

“Sea eagles are birds that have been historically linked to Orkney and it would be great if we could see birds that are fully fledged here flying above our hills once again,” Besant told Orkney.com. “This time it looks like one of the birds has returned with a new mate, so hopefully it will be third time lucky in terms of breeding attempts.”

Officials don’t know if the pair hails from the Scottish mainland or have flown in from Scandinavia or elsewhere.

The nest is so high up on a cliff wall and hidden it can’t really be seen.

But RSPB Scotland is running “Eaglewatch” daily in the nearby Dwarfie Stone to allow birders to see them without disturbing the new parents and their young.

Photos Raymond Besant/Orkney.com

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