Sea eagles take turkeys off crofters’ Christmas table

By Uclax at de.wikipedia (Original text : ucla) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
By Uclax at de.wikipedia (Original text : ucla) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
In a shock revelation cameras have proved that eagles are not vegetarian.  Film from White-tailed Eagle nests not only confirmed that the birds had white tails but that they were indeed eagles and ate meat. Although none of the images taken from nests showed the large birds bringing back nuts and berries to their ravenous chicks, conservationists pointed to the fact that most of the images of prey could not be identified and said ‘We think there must have been the odd nut roast in there too’.

But, to be serious, the c16 pairs of White-tailed Eagles which nest on Mull alone, are estimated to be worth over £5m to the island economy each year.  Let’s say the live weight of the average lamb at market is 50kg and the live weight price is (a very generous) £2/kg – that makes each live, surviving lamb worth £100.  Scotland’s 66 pairs (in 2012) of White-tailed Eagles would have to kill 50,000 lambs a year that would otherwise have got to market to wipe out the economic benefit through tourism of just Mull’s eagles.

Captive White-tailed Eagles ate about 0.5kg of meat/day.  If all of Scotland’s White-tailed Eagles (let’s say 250 birds, at a guess) are feeding solely on small lambs (let’s say 20kg live weight of which 10kg is edible by the eagles), and that they kill these lambs rather than eating carrion, for three months of the year, then that might be c1000 lambs in all – enough to have a local impact but of national triviality.  Since White-tailed Eagles do not prey exclusively on lambs (and don’t even come close to it), and most lambs fed upon are carrion rather than kills, it is quite surprising that it gets as much attention as it does.

White-tailed Eagles put far more turkey on crofters’ tables this Christmas, than they remove, and the value of the eagles is spread through the Scottish economy too. Added to which, I like eagles, very much. When is the UK or Scottish government going to reimburse me for all those visits to Scotland I made in my youth when I failed to see eagles because they were so much rarer then. I was robbed for years of the joy and pleasure of seeing a barn door in a Scottish sky. I feel I should be compensated.


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11 Replies to “Sea eagles take turkeys off crofters’ Christmas table”

  1. I think if I've just fallen in love with the eagle in the Torygraph's picture - just look at the expression of disdain on it's face. It's almost as though it's saying "don't you know who I am?" I also love the crowd of hoodies waiting to mug it for it's supper. Then again perhaps the WTE are quoting The Sweeney at one of the crow tearaways - "we're the sea eagles son and we haven't had any dinner..."
    To be slightly more serious:
    * presumably if WTE and other top predators eat carrion then that's a bit less for the generalist predators like hoodies, which might keep their populations down a little bit?
    * And in clearing up Mull and other places of bits of dead sheep (almost all of which were already dead when the WTE found them) they do the sort of hygiene job that vultures and other scavengers do and the sheep that survive stay might be a little healthier as a result?
    Just asking...
    Merry Christmas Mark and everyone.

  2. Farmers lambing outside do lose more lambs to hypothermia than lambing inside. Rain and cold are killers. We know that, and farmers know it.
    However if a dead lamb is taken by a fox, or an eagle it is much easier to blame said animal rather than admit that we did not check our flock quite as often as we should!
    Mull has not got the greatest weather for lambing outside, and I admit I would say, give me a set of lambing sheds any day.
    It is highly unlikely that a healthy bouncing lamb will be taken by a WTSE, so their window of opportunity to take lambs is also small.
    Increase flock rounds, lamb inside, provide field shelters, all practical steps to help keep more lambs alive, healthy, warm and dry.......and safe!

  3. Phew, that's a relief. SGA had them carrying off small children. Then there are the small dogs and assorted pets. There was a rumour that a vicar was carried off by one.

    So no evidence of any of those being brought to the nest must be the Good News Story of the Year.

    That and the first successful vicarious liability prosecution. (This model available only in Scotland)

  4. Go to Mull quite often and enjoy WTE,do not believe they take many live lambs.Mostly lambing hill sheep indoors is not a option.
    Think it ridiculous to try and put a value on what WTE are worth to Mull economy as lots of visitors would go anyway for the other wildlife and scenery,probably Golden Eagles and Otters are as important for visitors to the Island.

  5. Shepster

    The dislikers are individuals who have lost the argument or who have nothing intelligent to say. By pressing dislike, they think they have contributed in a meaningful way.


    1. You are probably quite correct, Richard, but I suppose if the facility is there for people to respond to a post in a simple, binary way, we can't complain if people use that without further comment - clearly many people 'like' posts too without saying why. The good thing is that the silent dislikers are in a very small minority and if they choose not to argue their point of view more constructively that's exactly where they will stay!

  6. It's has always seemed odd to me how claims being made by crofters and some shooting estates in Scotland show the White-tailed eagles behaviour is completely different from other populations in eastern europe. For example in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, this magnificent eagle lives and breeds peacefully alongside rural farms where sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks and geese run around without being predated.

  7. Terry,tis all about the louder you shout the more likely you are to get compensation.
    However we have to remember in all species of predators odd ones find a liking for domesticated livestock.
    Without doubt RSPB has staff working very hard to help anyone who believe they have had a problem with WTE.

  8. This is pure nonsens. Has anyone actually observed a sea eagle kill lambs? I strongly doubt it, because sea eagles are known to be scavengers when it comes to mammals. What happens is that they take over carcuses from predators like ravens, golden eagles and foxes and bring them to their nest. But they do not kill them. I live in Norway and the sea eagle population is considerable, having recovered for 50 years. And there are no reports whatsoever of the birds killing livestock. The sea eagle population of Scotland and Ireland is actually imported from Norway, so it is not likely that the birds should behave differently in territories than they do in Norway.


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