UK's largest bird of prey to be reintroduced to Norfolk

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White-tailed eagles are to be reintroduced to Norfolk, in the latest efforts to bring back the birds nicknamed "flying barndoors".  

Natural England has granted a scheme to release up to 60 juvenile white-tailed eagles over 10 years at Wild Ken Hill in west Norfolk. 

The aim is to establish a small breeding population of about six to 10 pairs.

White-tailed eagles are to be reintroduced to Norfolk Credit: Ainsley Bennett/ PA Images

According to the RSPB the white-tailed eagles are the largest UK bird of prey and have a wingspan of up to 8ft (2.4 metres). 

The species went extinct in the UK during the early 20th century due to illegal killing. 

The birds were first reintroduced in Scotland in the 1970s and on the Isle of Wight in 2019.

The reintroduction of young birds to west Norfolk is the next stage in bringing back the UK’s biggest bird of prey.

A licence has been granted to conservation organisation, the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, and Wild Ken Hill, a rewilding, conservation and sustainable farming project on the west Norfolk coast, for the scheme.

Wild Ken Hill in west Norfolk Credit: Wild Ken Hill/ PA Images

The team said they were given the go-ahead after a detailed feasibility study and a public consultation which showed high public support, with 91% backing the scheme, and 63% of farmers indicating support for the proposals.

Concerns have been raised in the past about the impact on livestock such as lambs from the birds. 

The National Farmers' Union says it's important to ensure that any impact the birds have on livestock and agricultural conservation are met with 'appropriately.'

The team said no issues with conservation sites or farms have been recorded with any of the 13 birds released on the Isle of Wight, in a scheme being run by the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England.

White-tailed eagles eat largely fish but also rabbits, hares and other birds. 

The young birds are likely to be introduced in 2022 after being translocated from a healthy population in Poland.

Dominic Buscall, manager at Wild Ken Hill, said: "We are delighted to have the go ahead to  bring back white-tailed eagles to Eastern England, and overwhelmed by the support we have received from all sectors.

"We have also carefully been listening to concerns where they have arisen, and we are now committed to delivering this important conservation project and working with all of our stakeholders to ensure its success."

Roy Dennis said: "The breeding biology of white-tailed eagles means that although young birds range extensively in their early years, they usually return to their natal area to breed.

He added: "However, if, in the future, young birds from other populations encounter a small breeding population of white-tailed eagles in East Anglia, they may be encouraged to stay."