A pair of golden eagles has successfully reared a chick in an artificial nest in the Highlands, marking the first known return of the birds of prey for breeding to the spot in 40 years.
The chick was raised at Trees for Life’s flagship Dundreggan rewilding estate in Glenmoriston, between Loch Ness and Skye.
Though Golden eagles are regularly seen over Dundreggan, there has been no sign of them nesting or setting up a territory until now.
Conservationist Roy Dennis MBE of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation set up an eagle nest or eyrie at a prime location to entice the birds of prey back.
The eagle chick flew from the nest for the first time last week – some five years after a Trees for Life team first set up the nest.
Doug Gilbert, Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Manager, explained:“This is a rewilding success story beyond our wildest dreams.
“I’ve been checking the eyrie regularly since we built it in 2015, hoping to see evidence that the eagles had returned – and now they have.
“As golden eagles may use their nesting sites for generations, we’re hoping they are back for the long-term.
“Four decades without golden eagles breeding or establishing themselves in this part of our wild and beautiful Highland glen have been four decades too long.
“When we built the artificial nest, we knew it was in a good location for eagles because we found the remains of an old nest at the site.
“We’ve been keeping our fingers crossed for the past five years, and it’s wonderful that our efforts have paid off like this.”
The golden eagle is the UK’s second-largest bird of prey, after the white-tailed eagle.
It is native to Britain, but centuries of persecution saw it driven into extinction in England and Wales by the mid-1800s.
The bird has been making a slow recovery in Scotland – though continues to be threatened by illegal persecution, with annual reports of golden eagles being shot, poisoned or having their nests robbed.
Highland Raptor Study Group member and golden eagle expert Stuart Benn added: “This is terrific news.
“Eagles are undergoing a marked expansion in the Highlands just now, recolonising ground they haven’t been on for many years and even colonising some completely new areas.”