It has been a brilliant year for white-tailed eagles on Hoy with chicks for the first time in over 100 years and a successful Eaglewatch for visitors all summer. Lee Shields, RSPB Scotland Warden based on Hoy, shares all the exciting news in this blog.

Success for Hoy's white-tailed eagles

It has been an exciting year on our Hoy nature reserve, with the news that two white-tailed eagle chicks have successfully left the nest. We were delighted to share the news in June that the first white-tailed eagle chicks to hatch in Orkney for 145 years had been confirmed and watching the daily activity at the nest has been a joy for all who were lucky enough to share it with us.

White-tailed eagle takes flight


Following a glorious, sunny summer, with both adults working hard to feed the chicks, the youngsters were looking increasingly restless and all eyes were on the nest ledge to see when they would take their first flight. In late July we were impressed with the vigorous wing flapping seen, as the chicks built up their muscles in preparation. Then the momentous day came on 8 August, when volunteers at Eaglewatch saw both chicks take to the wing for the first time. Since then, the young eagles have gained confidence and we have seen them almost every day, testing their skills with longer flights and more challenging landings around the cliffs on windy days.

Eagle in the nest


With the eagles nesting opposite a car park on the nature reserve, we have had the opportunity to share this spectacular wild story with visitors and island residents, as Eaglewatch has been running in the car park every day since Easter. Staff and volunteers have had a wonderful summer, welcoming more than 6,000 visitors and helping them share great views of the eagles. Our new eagle interactive display has been popular, giving people an engaging perspective on how big these birds really are and encouraging people to use their senses with our eagle-eyed scavenger hunt challenge. Our last day at Eaglewatch on 2 September was full of fun with walks, face-painting and crafts plus views of the whole eagle family at once to end the day.

Colouring activities at Eaglewatch


The success of this pair of eagles following disheartening failures in 2015 and 2016 is hopefully just the start of the white-tailed eagles reclaiming more of their traditional haunts around Orkney. The two young eagles are likely to remain in the area for a few weeks yet, as the adults begin the process of encouraging their young to hunt for themselves. Thereafter, no one knows where the youngsters will spend the winter and we are keen to have any records of sightings from anyone who sees them.

The youngsters in the nest with their tags showing


Both youngsters have a blue tag on their wings each with a white letter on it (B or C) that can be read from below (if the bird is flying overhead) or on the ground. If you have seen one of the tagged birds (or even managed to capture a photograph) we’d love to hear from you at the RSPB office on 01856 850176, or via our RSPB Orkney Facebook page. In the meantime, the Eaglewatch team look forward to the next chapter in the Orkney eagle story next Spring when we hope for another spectacular season.