A giant white-tailed eagle, part of a ground-breaking UK reintroduction programme, has become a regular visitor to Longleat Safari Park.
Also known as a sea eagle, it is the UK’s largest bird of prey, and the fourth largest species in the world, with a huge wing span of up to 2.5 metres.
The female bird, known as G405, was released into the wild last year on the Isle of Wight as part of a successful project to reintroduce the species in England.
She has become a familiar sight for keepers at the Wiltshire wildlife attraction who believe she may be attracted to the area to feed on leftovers from their resident pack of wolves and big cats.
“It’s difficult to put into words just how large sea eagles are until you see them with your own eyes,” said Longleat’s Head of Animal Operations Darren Beasley.
“They’re roughly double the size of a buzzard and, although G405 is still only a youngster having hatched out in 2020, she is a truly magnificent bird.
“She spent much of February and March in the area and then headed all the way up to Yorkshire as part of a UK tour before returning back her in the last week or so.
“For a place that is so well known for its exotic wildlife, the wider Longleat estate, which has remained largely untouched for centuries, also provides a fantastic habitat for a range of rare UK species.
“For this particular bird, which has flown across the UK on her travels, to have chosen us as her favourite place to visit is fantastic,” he added.
In addition to the eagles, the estate is home to wild otters, red kites, owls, kingfishers and several species of deer and keepers are working on a number of conservation projects to encourage more native species to return.
All of the eagles involved in the reintroduction programme have been fitted with radio trackers so their whereabouts are recorded and it has revealed a second, male eagle - G461 – has also visited the safari park.
Sea Eagles were once widespread along the whole of the south coast of England, from Cornwall to Kent, before being driven to extinction by continued hunting that began in the Middle Ages.
The last pair bred on Culver Cliff on the Isle of Wight in 1780.
As their name suggests, they hunt fish, but also birds, mammals and carrion. They are opportunistic hunters and often steal food from other birds.
Following their reintroduction to Scotland – where there are now over 130 breeding pairs – the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation has been granted licences by Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage to begin an English reintroduction in partnership with Forestry England, based on the Isle of Wight.
Within the UK sea eagles are strictly protected under Schedules 1, 1A and A1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. They are included on the Red List of UK birds of conservation concern.
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