Big bird could be coming this way

EUROPE'S largest bird of prey could be setting up home in Suffolk as part of an ambitious re-introduction programme.The sea - or white-tailed - eagle was successfully reintroduced into the west of Scotland in the 1990s when a handful of immature birds were released in the area.

EUROPE'S largest bird of prey could be setting up home in Suffolk as part of an ambitious re-introduction programme.

The sea - or white-tailed - eagle was successfully reintroduced into the west of Scotland in the 1990s when a handful of immature birds were released in the area.

There are now 33 breeding pairs centred on Mull and along the west coast - and their presence has proved to be a great tourist attraction in the area.

It had been hunted to extinction in this country during the early years of the 20th century by sheep farmers and other estates concerned that the birds could take their stock.

However it survived in Scandinavia and Russia, and the birds were reintroduced to Scotland from Norway.

Now government conservation body Natural England is considering re-introducing sea eagles to parts of England, and the Suffolk coast has been identified as a possible location.

Most Read

The sea eagle has a wingspan of up to eight feet and is the fourth largest eagle in the world.

Its natural food is fish or smaller mammals like rabbits but it will also take carrion and birds on the ground.

Natural England is consulting conservation bodies like the RSPB and Suffolk farmers before re-introducing the bird, which died out in this region during Victorian times.

However some farmers and conservationists are concerned that the birds could take farm animals like lambs, free-range chickens and turkeys if they are re-introduced to Suffolk - and could even be a threat to other endangered species like marsh harriers, otters, and water voles.

Natural England spokeswoman Helen Payne said: “There is still no final decision on whether we will go ahead with this programme. It is very much a long-term plan but it could be good for the area.

“We shall be consulting people over the summer and that would mean no final decision will be made during this breeding season.”

Unlike its near relative the golden eagle, the sea eagle is not known as a shy bird. It can live quite happily alongside humans.

On the continent it is not uncommon to find sea eagle nests in small harbours with adult birds scouring the sea for waste left by fishing vessels.

Ian Barthorpe from the RSPB said: “This is a project led by Natural England and they are still at the very early pre-consultation stage. No decision is likely to be made until 2008 at the earliest.

“There is no reason why white-tailed eagles should not do well in Suffolk, but they will have to consider the impact on other species and the environment as a whole.

“In Suffolk we would expect them to eat mainly carrion but also rabbits and fish - they have adapted to following fishing vessels to look for scraps.”

Should sea eagles be reintroduced to Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Sea Eagles:

There are about 6,000 pairs of sea eagles in northern Europe.

Last year 33 pairs raised young in Scotland.

They weigh up to 5.5kg.

The cost of re-introducing them to Suffolk has been estimated at about £150,000.

In Scotland the presence of sea eagles is estimated to attract £1.5 million a year from tourists.

The sea eagle is not endangered globally - its numbers are rising in Europe and over the last few years it has established new colonies in Denmark, Poland, and the Baltic states.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter