Wild Harris

Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle 1 CReddick.jpgSea Eagle    (Photo: Cliff Reddick)

The sea eagle, or white-tailed eagle, is the largest bird of prey in Britain. It became extinct in Britain about a hundred years ago because gamekeepers and farmers shot them, to protect game and farm animals. They were re-introduced from Norway in 1975, and since then have spread throughout western Scotland.

It is sometimes described as a flying barn door – when you see it you cannot mistake the sea eagle for anything else as it is just so big. The wingspan can be up to 8 feet - try and imagine that! Ravens and crows often fly up to harass and mob the sea eagle as it flies past, and they look so small in comparison to the huge eagle.

It is quite a lot bigger than the golden eagle, and also has a different shape of tail – the sea eagle’s is wedge-shaped whereas the golden eagle has a tail that is square ended.

If you get a good view of one you will see they have a whitish head – almost like a bald eagle in America.

The bright yellow legs of the sea eagle end in huge talons that they use to grab their prey. The legs don’t have feathers on them, so that they don’t get wet when the eagle puts its legs into the water to catch fish.

They feed mainly on fish, seabirds and rabbits, but will also eat other birds, like geese. In winter they are often seen feeding on dead red deer.

Sea Eagle 2 CReddick.jpgSea Eagle Nest    (Photo: Cliff Reddick)

They nest on sea cliffs, often where there is a small tree growing out of the cliff, to help support the huge nest. The nest is mainly made of heather sticks.

Near the nest you can hear it calling with a high pitched yapping, a bit like a dog.

When the chicks first hatch they are white, but as they grow their adult feathers they become a dark chocolate brown colour. The person in this photograph has climbed in to the nest to put a ring on the leg of the chick. You can see how big the nest is that a person is able to sit in it!

Sea Eagle 4 CReddick.jpgSea Eagle Leg Ring    (Photo: Cliff Reddick)

Each sea eagle chick in Scotland has a ring put on its leg with a unique number, so that scientists can tell which nest they came from.

by Alison Tyler