Haliaeetus albicilla (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Accipitriformes > Accipitridae
Described by some as a flying barn door, it is impossible not to be impressed by this very large and powerful bird.
White-tailed Eagles were widespread throughout Britain & Ireland during the Middle Ages, but because of the effects of habitat loss and persecution they had been lost as a breeding species by 1916. Following a series of successful reintroductions, the first of these launching in 1975 on Rum, we have seen this impressive bird return to our skies.
A study has identified that significant areas of suitable breeding habitat exist here, so there is every hope that the population will continue to expand and return the White-tailed Eagle to its former status.
White-tailed Eagle identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying White-tailed Eagle.
Eagles are simply magnificent, and the assumption is that they will be easy to identify. But distant views of birds can lead to confusion with Buzzard, and now we have to consider two species of eagle - Golden and White-tailed. Here we look at how you can confidently separate all three species of large raptor.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of White-tailed Eagle, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
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Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
It is believed that White-tailed Eagles were widespread in the UK before being driven to extinction by humans at the start of the twentieth century (Green et al. 1996). The White-tailed Eagle population has increased substantially following a successful reintroduction project in Scotland which began in 1975 (Green et al. 1996, Whitfield et al. 2009). The Scottish population has now reached over 100 breeding pairs and a new reintroduction scheme began on the Isle of Wight in 2019 (Eaton et al. 2021).
The breeding distribution of White-tailed Eagles is centred around four distinct areas: Outer Hebrides, Wester Ross, Skye and the Small Isles, and north Argyll centred on Mull. This may change as attempts are underway to reintroduce the species to southern England. Most birds stay near their breeding territories in winter, but some juveniles wander widely.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||94|
|% occupied in breeding season||3.1|
|No. occupied in winter||294|
|% occupied in winter||9.7|
European Distribution Map
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||+1447.1%|
White-tailed Eagles are present year-round in their northern breeding areas, with additional records of wandering birds reintroduced to southern Britain.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
Lifecycle and body size information about White-tailed Eagle, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report
|Maximum Age from Ringing||16 years 9 months 10 days (set in 2017)|
|Typical Lifespan||20 years with breeding typically at 5 year|
|Juvenile Survival||0.395 (to age 3)|
|Field Codes||2-letter: WE | 5-letter code: WHTEA | Euring: 2430|
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
Interpretation and scientific publications about White-tailed Eagle from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
The recolonisation of Scotland has arisen directly from the reintroduction project (Whitfield et al. 2009). The original extinction of the species was brought amount by persecution (Green et al. 1996) and some persecution may still limit population growth in some areas.
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