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Wildlife Lovers Track Rare Eagle’s 10,000-mile Journey

France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden were among the places the bird has flown

Wildlife lovers tracking a rare white-tailed eagle that left its UK home two years ago were stunned when it finally returned – after an incredible 10,000-mile journey.

The rare bird is part of an ongoing conservation project run by the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to help encourage white-tailed eagles to live on the Isle of Wight.

As part of the project, the young eagle, known as G463, was tracked for the last two years by a GPS device.

The one-footed white eagle in flight – seen here with another eagle. PHOTO BY JOHN THORPE/SWNS

They found the bird had flown to France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. They also found out that the eagle lost one of his feet in December 2021, but still continued to fly around Europe for more than a year.

Tim Mackrill, 41, who works at the wildlife foundation, said the two-year-old eagle is the first to cross the English Channel and venture into mainland Europe. He said: “We’ve found out that for the first two years of their lives, the eagles are very nomadic.

The eagle’s flight patterns from October 13, 2020 – December 31, 2021 (red line) and Jan. 1, 2022 – January 9, 2023 (white line). PHOTO BY ROY DENNIS/WILDLIFE FOUNDATION/SWN

“We’ve had some birds that have flown from the Isle of Wight right to the north coast of Scotland.

“But then we’ve had this one, which is the first one to cross the English Channel, who flew through a lot of Western Europe.

“It went through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and then it even went all the way up to Sweden last spring. “But because it was released on the Isle of Wight, it basically regards it as its home now so as it’s getting older and it’s thinking about breeding, it’s coming back to England.”

The birds are all fitted with GPS tracking devices, allowing their flight paths to be monitored. Last year, one bird returned to the Isle of Wight after 17 months away, during which he traveled 6,800 miles. 

Another bird also made it back after spending most of 2021 in northern Scotland and flying 4,000 miles. Tim said it wouldn’t be ‘easy’ for the eagle to survive with one foot but thinks he has adapted over the last year.

Tim, of Rutland, UK, said: “It wouldn’t be easy for sure.

“An eagle’s food is naturally fish because they can catch it, so there is a possibility that he’s able to catch fish with just one foot.

“They basically grab the fish from the surface of the water with their feet so I suppose he’s learned to adapt. “We think he is still catching prey in that way and they catch other food such as water birds and rabbits so it’s probable that he is catching live prey.

“White-tail eagles are also scavengers so they might feed on dead animal carcasses and bird carcasses so it could be a combination of the two things basically. “The fact he has been alive for a year means that he has learned to adapt.”

The white-tailed eagle, also known as the sea eagle, is the UK’s largest bird of prey, with a huge wingspan of up to 8.2 feet (2.5 meters). They are usually found along rocky coastlines, estuaries and lochs near the sea, although they will also range inland, especially when they are younger.

It has been reintroduced to the UK after being driven to extinction through persecution and pesticide use.


Produced in association with SWNS Talker.

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