Sea eagle attacks cleric defending his geese

Sea eagle The sea eagle is the UK's largest bird of prey

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A senior clergyman has been injured by a sea eagle as he tried to scare away the bird after it attacked and killed one of his prize-winning geese.

The Very Rev Hunter Farquharson said he arrived home in Abernethy, near Perth, on Friday to see his Toulouse goose Beatrice lying dead on the ground.

A sea eagle - the UK's biggest bird of prey - was perched on a nearby post.

It jumped on Mr Farquharson's back as he tried to stop it attacking a second goose, leaving him with a head injury.

With a wing span of 8ft (2.4m), the white-tailed sea eagle is the UK's largest bird of prey.

'Naive bird'

It was completely wiped out in Britain in the early 20th Century and only returned when a reintroduction programme began on the island of Rum in 1975.

The project has been opposed by some farmers and crofters who say the birds frequently attack and kill livestock

Mr Farquharson, Provost of Perth Cathedral, said it was the second time his birds had been attacked by a sea eagle.

Start Quote

In our experience sea eagles will only defend themselves and attack humans if they feel cornered and threatened.”

End Quote Spokesman RSPB Scotland

Three years ago, one of the eagle, known as "flying barn doors", killed four of his bantams.

RSPB Scotland blamed the attack on "very young and naive" birds which had been released this year.

The charity, which is responsible for the reintroduction programme in Scotland, said there were a "tiny number of incidents" like this, but said the birds would soon disperse as they grew in confidence.

An RSPB spokesman said: "In our experience sea eagles will only defend themselves and attack humans if they feel cornered and threatened.

"It is of course unfortunate that the bird scratched Mr Farquharson, but we believe it was simply trying to escape and resist capture."

The RSPB said it had visited Mr Farquharson in 2008 after the first attack and paid for the installation of netting to keep his birds safe, but that these protection measures had since been removed.

The licence for the current reintroduction programme was granted in 2007.

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