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First white-tailed eagle chicks in 145 years take flight

The chicks were spotted in flight on Wednesday by RSPB Scotland volunteers.

Chicks: Born in May.
Chicks: Born in May. Raymond Besant

Two white-tailed eagle chicks have taken flight in Orkney for the first time in 145 years.

The chicks hatched in Hoy in May, and were spotted in flight on Wednesday by RSPB Scotland volunteers, Katharine Stark and Janet Yeung.

Ms Stark said: "It was magnificent to see the eagles soaring through the sky, especially knowing how long it has been since the last time.

"We spoke to lots of locals and tourists throughout the day and everyone was thrilled.

"There has been a nervous excitement in the air since the chicks hatched but now we can all breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate."

'It was magnificent to see the eagles soaring through the sky, especially knowing how long it has been since the last time.'
Katharine Stark

This conservation success story is particularly important as 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary since white-tailed eagles became extinct in the UK, when the last known bird was shot in Shetland in 1918.

Two formal reintroductions, releasing a total of 140 birds, were carried out on Rum and Wester Ross between 1975 and 1998.

They first bred successfully on Mull in 1985 and have gone on to establish an increasing breeding population on the west coast of Scotland.

Another 85 birds were reintroduced on the east coast of Scotland between 2007 and 2012, with the aim of making the Scottish sea eagle population stronger.

In 2013, white-tailed eagles bred in east Scotland for the first time in 200 years and there are now more than 100 breeding pairs of the UK's largest bird of prey in Scotland.

White-tailed eagles were absent from Orkney until an adult pair first appeared in 2013, but after unsuccessful breeding attempts were made in 2015 and 2016, the pair abandoned their territory.

The female returned this year with a new, younger male, and two chicks were born in May.

Events and communications officer, Ian McNab, said: "We were expecting them to stay in the nest for another week or two, as their first flight was from a precariously high cliff.

"However, both chicks are looking strong as they made their way up and beyond the Hamars.

"It's quite common for birds of prey to stay within the territory for a while after they have fledged, so hopefully we will be able to enjoy watching them for some time yet."

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