Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Plans to return sea eagles to Isle of Wight

A white-tailed eagle Image copyright Mike Crutch
Image caption White-tailed eagles are the UK's largest bird of prey

Conservationists are planning to reintroduce the UK's largest bird of prey to the south coast of England.

White-tailed eagles, which have a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres (8ft), were once widespread but were wiped out in the UK a century ago.

Now a charity is working with the Forestry Commission on a project to return the birds to the Isle of Wight.

A similar scheme in Scotland has already proved a success and there are now more than 130 breeding pairs.

The birds, also known as sea eagles, are currently deemed extinct in England but have been reintroduced in Scotland and Ireland.

The Roy Dennis Foundation said it was exploring the feasibility of a reintroduction project, while public drop-in sessions on the island had generated "great interest".

The charity is also conducting an online survey to gather opinions on the scheme.

Dr Tim Mackrill, who is working on the project, said: "We feel that the Isle of Wight and surrounding area is a perfect place for them because there is high food availability and plenty of nesting sites.

"There are other far-reaching benefits such as tourism - they have generated £5m for the economy on the Isle of Mull and £2.4m for the Isle of Skye."

If the consultation and feasibility study are successful, the foundation would need to apply for a licence from Natural England.

Dr Mackrill said if a bid was successful it was possible the first birds could be released in 2019.

Image copyright Mike Crutch
Image caption The last known breeding pair in England was recorded at Culver Cliff on the Isle of Wight in 1780

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