White-tailed Eagle

Haliaeetus albicilla (Linnaeus, 1758) WE WHTEA 2430
Family: Accipitriformes > Accipitridae

White-tailed Eagle, Liz Cutting

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.

Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the White-tailed Eagle

  • Breeding
  • Winter


White-tailed Eagle identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying White-tailed Eagle.

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Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of White-tailed Eagle, provided by xeno-canto contributors.


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Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

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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

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2



White-tailed Eagles are present year-round in their northern breeding areas, with additional records of wandering birds reintroduced to southern Britain.

Weekly occurence of White-tailed Eagle from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of White-tailed Eagle ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


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


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Iolaire-mhara
Welsh: Eryr Môr
Catalan: pigarg cuablanc
Czech: orel morský
Danish: Havørn
Dutch: Zeearend
Estonian: merikotkas
Finnish: merikotka
French: Pygargue à queue blanche
German: Seeadler
Hungarian: rétisas
Icelandic: Haförn
Irish: Iolar Mara
Italian: Aquila di mare
Latvian: juras erglis
Lithuanian: paprastasis jurinis erelis
Norwegian: Havørn
Polish: bielik (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: pigargo
Slovak: orliak morský
Slovenian: belorepec
Spanish: Pigargo europeo
Swedish: havsörn
Folkname: Sea Eagle, Erne


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.

Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com

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