A report published this week found that the south of Scotland could support up to 16 pairs of golden eagles.
The Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) report found that, with suitable conditions, many more breeding golden eagle pairs could inhabit the local area.
Currently, there are just one to two pairs attempting to breed in Galloway, and one to three pairs attempting to breed in the Scottish Borders. The report finds that South Scotland could support between 11 and 16 pairs. As a whole, the Scottish golden eagle population numbers 440 pairs, mainly in the Highlands and Islands.
The report presents a novel approach in which each of the nine principal regions is assessed for habitat suitability. The study explored several factors which can affect range use in detail, including rainfall, plant growing days, potential recreational pressure, persecution records, wind farm developments, nest sites and woodland cover.
The report suggests the next steps involve monitoring the ranges for any golden eagle activity, developing work to improve habitats and other conditions for eagles and assessing where further eagles might come from, notably in Argyll, Cowal and Arran.
Environment and climate change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “It is great news that South Scotland could support so many pairs of golden eagles. This offers tremendous opportunities for wildlife tourism and the prospect of re-establishing a special population of these birds. I’m especially pleased to see so many partners have worked together on this project.
“We will work hard to ensure that they are given the best possible chance to expand their population and range in the south of Scotland, given the region contains habitat that we would expect to see and sustain a greater population of this magnificent bird.”
The project steering group includes members of the Scottish Government, SNH, Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB, the Scottish Raptor Study Group, Scottish Land and Estates, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, British Association for Shooting and Conservation, and CONFOR.
For the full report, see http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/publications/commissioned_reports/626.pdf.