Isle of Wight sea eagle returns home after 17-month journey

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image copyrightMike Crutch
image captionWhite-tailed eagles are the UK's largest birds of prey

A white-tailed eagle which was reared by conservationists on the Isle of Wight has returned to the island after a 17-month journey across England.

The two-year-old male sea eagle flew 4,904km (3,047 miles), according to a tracker it wears.

It spent time in the North York Moors and Norfolk as well as settling with a group of red kites in Oxfordshire.

The Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, which released the bird as a juvenile, said its return was "exciting news".

image copyrightGoogle / Roy Dennis Foundation
image captionA tracker worn by the eagle showed it covered nearly 5,000km (3,000 miles) in 17 months

The foundation has so far released 13 sea eagles on the Isle of Wight as part of an attempt to reintroduce them to southern England.

Six of the birds currently remain on the island while three have died, the charity said.

Mr Dennis said: "We were really pleased when we saw that bird go back. It left in September 2019 and yet it knew the Isle of Wight was where it belonged.

"They have a pretty good map in their brains of where they are."

image copyrightForestry England
image captionThe eagle settled for a time with a group of red kites in Oxfordshire

Mr Dennis said the return was a hopeful sign that the eagle might breed on the island in two or three years' time.

The male eagle, known as G393, was one of six released on the Isle of Wight in August 2019 as part of a five-year introduction programme.

A further seven juveniles, collected from nests in western Scotland, were released on the island in 2020.

White-tailed eagles, the UK's largest birds of prey, were once widespread across the country but were wiped out about a century ago.

The last known breeding pair in England was recorded at Culver Cliff on the Isle of Wight in 1780.

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