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Sixteen white-tailed sea eagles released from secret location in Fife.

Sixteen white-tailed sea eagles have taken their first flight in Scottish skies as a successful reintroduction programme enters its penultimate year.

The birds, released from a secret location in Fife, arrived from Norway in June as part of the East Scotland Sea Eagle project, a partnership between RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland.

Since their arrival, they have been reared in specially built aviaries on a diet of grey squirrel, roe deer and haddock until they were old enough to fledge.

The young eagles will now join Scotland’s growing white-tailed eagle population and help restore the species to its former range. Since the reintroduction initiative began in 2007, a total of 80 birds have been released in the east coast of the country.

With a wing span of 8ft, the white-tailed sea eagle is the UK’s largest bird of prey. It was completely wiped out in Britain in the early 20th century and only returned when a reintroduction programme began on the island of Rum in 1975 aimed to bring these majestic raptors back to Scotland’s skies.

Claire Smith, RSPB Scotland East Scotland Sea Eagle Officer said: “It’s great to see these birds fit, ready and raring to try out those impressive wings for the first time.  Each bird has been fitted with a radio and wing tags so both project staff and the public can follow their progress. For 2011 we’ve chosen red wing tags with white letters and numbers, and as usual any sightings can be reported to us via email. Every day our older birds are spotted in locations up and down the country and we’re hopeful in the next couple of years the east of Scotland could have its first wild bred chick. “

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