Islanders are being assured that their pets are not at risk, following the reintroduction of white-tailed eagles to the Isle of Wight.

It comes after six were released in a secret location – the first-time in 240 years the species have taken flight in England.

As previously reported by Isle of Wight Radio, plans were first disclosed in October last year by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation.

The young birds were collected under a Scottish Natural Heritage licence from the wild in
Scotland and brought to the Isle of Wight.

Here, they have been fed and monitored by a team of experts and dedicated volunteers.

Concerns have previously been raised that the birds, which have a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres, would target small animals – or even pets – for food.

However, Ornithologist Tim Mackrill, from the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, says Islanders have nothing to fear.

Speaking to Isle of Wight Radio, he said:

“This is a bird that many people associate with Scotland but in Europe it breeds in many populated regions – populations on the outskirts in Hamburg in Germany and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The birds are just a familiar part of the local landscape.

“This is a bird that generally eats fish, water birds and scavenges carrion. It should remain very coastal. All the evidence is that they are no threat to pets at all. This is something the Island can be really proud of.”

The team will initially continue to provide feeding sites for the birds to encourage them to settle along the south coast.

They have been fitted with small satellite trackers so their progress can be closely monitored.

Tim says the license granted by Natural England last year means they are allowed to release up to 60 birds.

He said:

“This doesn’t mean that suddenly there will be 30 pairs of breeding eagles because survival is actually very low. They won’t all stay here. Some will spread across the mainland.

“By releasing this number it should guarantee that a small population become established. The Isle of Wight will almost become the nucleus.”

Further releases of the birds will take place annually as part of the five year programme, with at least six birds released each year.

It will take several years for the young birds to become established and breeding is not expected to start until at least 2024.