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Golden eagle found on Jura breaks the age record

She was a tough old bird, but at 22 years of age, time had finally run out for the oldest known wild golden eagle in the UK, which has been found dead on the island of Jura.

Like many birds of prey, golden eagles have a naturally long lifespan, and in captivity have been recorded as living for over 40 years. But in the wild, the oldest one previously recorded in the UK was only 16 years of age, making the Jura bird a clear record breaker.

The bird, which may have been a male or a female, was ringed on Mull in 1987 by RSPB Scotland’s Roger Broad, when it was still a tiny chick and too young to be sexed. Its body was discovered on North Jura earlier this year by a member of the public, who then reported the find to Roger. The BTO have since confirmed that this is the oldest known ringed golden eagle in the UK.

Roger said: “It’s actually very nice to hear about a bird that’s had such a long life, and to be told about it in a situation like this when there are absolutely no suspicious circumstances whatsoever.  By the time we got to the eagle, it was too far gone to do a post mortem, but there are no records of bird of prey persecution on Jura, and there were no signs of this being anything other than a natural death from old age.”

The eagle was likely to have been part of a breeding pair on Jura, and its partner will hopefully now pair up with another single sub adult golden eagle passing through its territory.

The find comes in a year when the UK’s oldest white-tailed eagles, both nearly 30, successful hatched out and raised two chicks on Mull. But even these are not the oldest wild birds in Britain. That record goes to a Manx shearwater, which in 2007 was recorded as reaching the grand old age of 50.

RSPB Scotland Mull Officer, Dave Sexton, said: “It’s amazing to think how long eagles can survive if left to get on with things in the wild. Their longevity is balanced by the fact that they only have one or two chicks each year, and don’t start breeding until they’re five years old. That’s why the population of any eagle can suffer so dramatically when the adult birds are taken out by poisoning or other unnatural means. But it’s great to think that this bird lived out its days in relative peace, and still almost in sight of the nest it hatched out of on Mull all those years ago.”

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