Golden Eagles disappear too – mostly over grouse moors

RSPB press release:

RSPB Scotland has issued an appeal for information following the disappearance of another young golden eagle, the eighth of this species to vanish in the same area in less than five years. The young female golden eagle, named Brodie, hatched two years ago and was fitted with a satellite transmitter shortly before she fledged from her nest. Brodie was being monitored by conservationists as part of a national study to improve our understanding of the movements and survival of young golden eagles. Her last recorded position placed her in the northern Monadhliath mountains, south east of Inverness on 2nd July this year.

Since November 2011, eight golden eagles, all less than three years old, fitted with satellite transmitters have disappeared in the same area. The birds were being monitored by RSPB Scotland, the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, Natural Research Ltd and Forestry Commission Scotland. Satellite transmitters are increasingly being used to study the movements of wild birds to gain an understanding of their behaviour and travels following fledging. They are fitted under special licence by a small number of highly accredited individuals, and golden eagle experts. Satellites continue to transmit if a transmitter becomes detached from a bird, or if a tagged bird dies naturally allowing recovery of the body.

ge disappeared

Despite comprehensive searches, under the authority of the Police, of the areas around the last recorded positions of all eight eagles none of the birds or transmitters have been recovered, and no further data has been received from the transmitters. The first eagle vanished after last being recorded in the hills above Strathdearn in November 2011; following this a second disappeared in July 2012, and a third in March 2014. In October 2014, transmissions from two further eagles stopped at another location across the valley, three weeks apart. Three eagles’ tags stopped transmitting at a scatter of locations in the hills above the River Findhorn, in May, June and the latest bird, Brodie, in early July this year [1].

Since satellite transmitters first began to be fitted to raptors in Scotland around ten years ago several tagged birds were subsequently found to have been illegally killed [2]. All had been poisoned except for one which had been caught and injured in an illegal trap prior to being deliberately moved to another location. More recently, tagged birds have tended to go off the radar [3]. In every case, data received from the transmitters prior to their disappearance indicated the tags were functioning correctly, before suddenly stopping.

The golden eagle that disappeared in May 2016, a young female, had fledged from a nest in Galloway in 2015, one of only two fledged young from the tiny population of this species in the south of Scotland that year. The golden eagles in this area do not tend to leave the south of Scotland and so it was very unusual that this young bird roamed north rather than exploiting the vacant territories close to where she fledged.

DumfriesGalloway GE chick

Dave Anderson from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, who tagged this eagle said: ‘I was privileged to satellite-tag this large female chick in July 2015 with a fellow member of the SRSG who monitors the site. This bird was the first successful fledging from any nest in this area since 2010. The data we were receiving from her was of great interest as we followed her journey northwards to Cairngorms National Park, with excellent location information.

We were looking forward to seeing if she would head south again later in the year, however the tag stopped transmitting abruptly on the 18th May 2016, shortly after her first birthday. This is a very sad end to arguably one of the most important golden eagle chicks fledged that year in Scotland. There are no words to describe how disappointed I am at this bird’s disappearance.‘.

RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations, Ian Thomson, said ‘It is surely no coincidence that the overwhelming majority of satellite-tagged birds of prey that have disappeared in Scotland have been in areas intensively managed for gamebird shooting and in areas that have an appalling previous record of confirmed incidents of raptor persecution. These eight birds have all disappeared in an area where driven grouse moor management dominates the landscape, and where there have been many previous cases of illegal killing of protected raptors, including the poisoning of a golden eagle and a white-tailed eagle as recently as 2010 [4].

Given the reliability of the transmitters, the chance of so many birds disappearing over such a short timescale without some kind of human interference is so small as to be negligible. The pattern we see here is consistent with the birds having been killed and the transmitters destroyed.

Once again, the commendable positive efforts of those landowners and estates who welcome golden eagles and host their nesting attempts, including elsewhere in the Monadhliaths, are being catastrophically undermined by those who have a complete disregard for the law, and who continue to threaten the conservation status of these magnificent birds. All of these eagles were young birds exploring Scotland before establishing their own territories and with their disappearance any potential future breeding by them to aid the population’s recovery is also lost.

We ask that if anyone can provide information as to the fate of these eagles that they contact Police Scotland or RSPB Scotland’s investigations team.‘.


  1. The eight eagles that have disappeared since November 2011 in the Monadhliath mountains are:


Tag no./Bird name Date and place fitted with tag Date last recorded
57124 6th July 2010, at a nest in south Inverness-shire 22nd November 2011
“Foinaven” 29th June 2011, at a nest in north west Sutherland 17th July 2012
129002 1st July 2013 on Mull 5th March 2014
107133 30th June 2013, at a nest in north Perthshire 9th October 2014
119886 29th June 2012, at a nest in Deeside 31st October 2014
00000583 5th July 2015, at a nest in Galloway 18th May 2016
129010 1st July 2014, at a nest in south Inverness-shire 4th June 2016
129015 “Brodie” 26th June 2014, at a nest in east Inverness-shire 2nd July 2016


  1. Satellite-tagged golden eagles found to have been illegally killed:
  • 1 poisoned in Angus, 2009
  • 1 poisoned in Glenbuchat, Strathdon, in 2011
  • 1 poisoned in Lochaber in 2012
  • 1 illegally trapped in Angus in 2012
  • 1 poisoned in Angus in 2013


  1. Other raptors that have gone off radar include three satellite-tagged golden eagles and a white-tailed eagle which disappeared in September 2011, February 2012, May 2013 and April 2014 respectively, all in upper Donside. Other tagged golden eagles have disappeared in west Aberdeenshire (May 2012) and Angus (February 2011).


  1. A golden eagle and white-tailed eagle found dead in the Monadhliath mountains in 2010 were confirmed as having been illegally poisoned with carbofuran at the laboratory of Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) – SASA ref. No. 10123


  1. A Scottish Natural Heritage review of wildlife crime records and other threats found that the golden eagle population in the the Monadhliath mountains had unfavourable conservation status, with poisoning in particular being associated with grouse moors. (“A Conservation Framework for Golden Eagles”, SNH 2008)




The RSPB in Scotland is supporting a Scottish Raptor Study Group petition to the Scottish Parliament to license gamebird shooting – it has just over 3100 signatures online and closes on 22 August.

I have a UK-wide petition which has 82,000 signatures in favour of banning driven grouse shooting and which closes on 20 September.


17 Replies to “Golden Eagles disappear too – mostly over grouse moors”

  1. And so it goes on, one wonders what proportion of each years cadre of young eagles is lost to persecution. What proportion of the satellite tags birds is lost in this way would give us a fair idea. This as we know also happens to Hen Harriers, Peregrines, Goshawks and Buzzards, in fact there probably isn’t a raptor in the UK whose population is not constrained in numbers or range by persecution. Quite a sobering thought, time most of it was stopped as game shooting seems incapable of any self regulation and prosecution is so difficult.

  2. I have just read the article on BBC news – Tim Baynes sounding ludicrous as usual and people who don’t know anything about the actual issue know human nature and can just see through arse covering exercises.

  3. It just seems wrong to ‘like’ news such as this.
    How on earth can the RSPB think that licensing will ever stop this. It will be just as hard to catch and prosecute the b******* who do this with licensing as it is now.
    Stop them. Ban it.

  4. Last year during the second petition, I wrote to the owners of the Birding holiday companies who specialise in Scottish holidays. I asked them to publicise the petition since it was strongly in their interests to do so. They all hold past client lists, it would not have been difficult.
    I recieved not one reply back.
    Tourism already makes far money for Scotland than grouse shooting, how much more would it make if the punters were guaranteed to see eagles.

    Hen harriers are known to birders. Golden eagles are known to all.
    Tourist boards and tourism business’s both here and in Scotland have a vested interest to support this petition.

    1. Still not to worry. 232 signatures in the past hour. We will do it in spite of them!

    2. I’ve seen people who have holiday businesses that would benefit from greater eco tourism actually jump on the pro gamekeeper, anti predator bandwagon. Absolutely ridiculous, the fact that groups such as Scottish Land and Estates deliberately play down how much red kite and sea eagle viewings bring into the economy is atrocious. How many people benefit from going to the highlands and seeing nothing but burnt hills and starving deer? Scotland and nothern England could do so much better.

  5. Interested to see Paul’s experience of birding companies. Maybe readers should engage in constructive discussions with them at the Birdfair.

    1. Tim, at Worldwide Birding Tours and Spanish Nature we have actively promoted the petition. In fact Mark will be letting us have leaflets to handout during Birdfair in Marquee 1 Stand 30. So we at least are engaged in the issues as are ‘all’ our guides.

      1. Thanks for that Peter, but I was specifically referring to the companies based in Scotland. I won’t name names, but they know who they are. It was the owners of the companies that I wrote to.

  6. One year one of the Scottish tour companies ran into a Hen Harrier nest on an estate where they had access. Guess what! The birds disappeared and when asked what the owner of the tour company did the answer was nothing as he did not want to loose access!!

    I recently wrote to Rosemary Cunningham about the loss of wildlife on shooting estates and how it was effecting genuine tour companies like my son’s [!iolo-williams/qjcct]. A reply from a John Gray came out with how much shooting was worth but he had not grabbed the apple as how much money was being taken away from these companies wanting to operate in these shooting areas. So his sums should have read – Shooting worth x minus y . And then you could have taken off all the flooding, carbon etc as other costs against the figure he was giving for favouring shooting. May be the other point comes out that many of these staff are not neutral at all and are paid by the shooting lobby to act against us! What unfair world we live in!

  7. Such a shame that not only birds a majestic as the golden eagle suffer for man’s greed . All life on earth is under threat.

  8. Well done to Peter. At least we can put Worldwide Birding Tours and Spanish Nature on the right side of the argument and consider spending our hard earned money with them. Let’s wait to here from the others now and see where they stand.

    1. So another, iconic, golden eagle is gone at the hands of the shooting mafia. Licensing of game bird shooting would not reflect the outrage that I and so many others feel. That this goes on, still, and almost with impunity, in the UK in the 21st century really is shameful and outrageous and exposes the feudal and corrupt nature of land ownership in this country. Yes, I do ultimately blame the Normans! “They” believe they can do what they want in the vast tracts of unmonitored space that they have inherited or bought with ill-gotten gains. Well, they can’t – the time is coming for it to stop. And it will, because thousands of people are now aware, and driven grouse shooting WILL be banned.

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