White-tailed eagle watched by millions flies west for Christmas

Viewers were treated to unrivalled views of life at a white-tailed eagle nest in the Cairngorms earlier this year. 

White-tailed eagle watched by millions on BBC Springwatch and RSPB camera flies west for Christmas RSPB

A bird of prey whose first five weeks in the Cairngorms were captured live on camera has flown west for the festive season to spend time with her family.

The white-tailed eagle, who was watched by millions on BBC’s 2022 Springwatch Series and was broadcast live to visitors at RSPB Scotland’s Loch Garten Nature Centre, has made its way to the Isle of Mull, home of its great-great grandparents, Skye and Frisa.

Viewers were treated to unrivalled views of life at a white-tailed eagle nest in the Cairngorms earlier this year. 

In a UK first, a camera was installed by Wildlife Windows and External Reality overlooking the nest over a year ago in the hope the eagle family would take up residence in the spring. 

Early signs were promising when an adult pair, named Finn and Shona, were nest building in the snow deep in the forest on Cairngorms Connect land. 

Eventually eggs were laid, two chicks hatched and both went on to fledge successfully after the female chick was fitted with a satellite tag.

The satellite tag tracked the eagle's movements.

Satellite tags allow conservationists to track the movements of birds, providing insights into their behaviour and helping to identify the threats they face.

Immature white-tailed eagles explore far and wide in their first five years prior to becoming mature adults, pairing up and establishing a breeding territory of their own. 

The young eagle from the Cairngorms has now successfully navigated her way to the west coast.

The female eagle was recorded on the Morvern peninsula before crossing the Sound of Mull and onto the Isle of Mull, dubbed ‘Eagle Island’ due to the concentration of white-tailed and golden eagles which live there. 

Mull has also played a critical role in the re-establishment of white-tailed eagles since their reintroduction in 1975 following their UK extinction in 1918.

The satellite tag data showed that the young eagle visited the territory of her great-grandparents and also flew close to the nest where her grandfather once fell from his nest in a storm. He was rescued by RSPB Scotland staff and survived before later settling on Islay to breed.

The chick’s most famous ancestors, Skye and Frisa were featured on the first ever live episode of Springwatch and have become regular fixtures on the programme. 

Skye is now a record breaker, having been confirmed by the British Trust for Ornithology as the UK’s oldest known wild white-tailed eagle after Springwatch cameraman Jim Manthorpe read his BTO leg ring whilst filming on Mull earlier this year.

Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams said: “It was such a privilege to watch the two sea eagle chicks in the Cairngorms last spring and to know they both successfully flew the nest was just fantastic. 

“Now to hear that the female has made it all the way across the country to Mull – one of my favourite places in the world – and that she’s exploring the island home of her ancestors is just the icing on the Christmas cake. I hope the family gave her a warm welcome for the festive season.” 

After spending Christmas and Hogmanay on the island with relatives, it’s likely the young eagle will wander further afield and will keep exploring different areas of Scotland.

Her venture comes after some white-tailed eagle chicks on the west coast succumbed to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) this year, after possibly feeding on sickly or dead seabirds which were badly affected by the disease.