"Among the matters that need to be studied is the effect of disturbance upon outdoor pigs and poultry. We simply do not know how they would react to a huge bird flying above them. This aspect would not appear to have been taken into account originally."
This is the key reason behind the Country Land & Business Association's lobbying of Natural England/RSPB/Anglian Water in order to delay any possible English White Tailed Sea Eagle Reintroduction Project.
Sea eagles will go for anything, and that includes young pigs in the open – and we have many of them in Norfolk – and young lambs. There's an enormous problem in the western islands of Scotland,
Another statement from the same organisation. Now there is a single documented record of White Tailed Sea Eagle taking a four week old pig on the Island of Hoy sometime before 1891.
It's worth noting a few points:
1.Observational evidence shows that White-tailed Sea Eagles are primarily scavengers, preferring to search for animal remains that are already dead, than expend energy finding and killing their own food.
2. Studies in Finland have shown that waterfowl make up 54% of WTSE diet with fish 30% and mammals 5%.
3. In Norway with 2 million sheep and 3000 pairs of breeding WTSE not a single documented record of a live lamb being taken as prey has been recorded.
Just read number three again.
The 'enormous problem' in Scotland, well here there has been some lamb predation on Mull, the worst case numbers in the 'tens'. Total Lamb losses for all reasons equate to c2600 per annum, so predation by WTSE represents 1-2% of total losses at most.Expert opinion and experience from Norway suggests that even the few lambs that have been attributed to sea eagle predation on Mull may have been killed by other predators and subsequently found dead and scavenged by sea eagles.
I highlight this as I firmly believe that Northumberland & The Borders should be considered as an alternative for the English reintroduction programme. There are several reasons for this.
1. Lower Human population & settlements mean less conflict between people and eagles.
2. Proximity to the East & West Scotland breeding populations may speed the 'joining up' of the breeding populations and the subsequent strengthening of the gene pool as a result.
3. Habitat, cliffs in areas such as St Abbs, important winter habitat in the form of seven significant estuarine areas for feeding.
4. An RSPB economic study on Mull showed that the WTSE is worth 1.7m to the Mull economy annually. Our region could benefit from a slice of that pie.