Nesting Golden Eagles at risk from crofters in the Outer Hebrides, can anyone offer any advice?

Last week Raptor Politics received a request from Margaret who lives in the Outer Hebrides asking for any advice on how best to protect a local Golden Eagle eyrie. It appears from what Margaret has written below, the site she is particularly concerned about has in the recent past been subjected to interference by local crofters who she claims have been stealing the eggs to protect their lambs. If anyone has any ideas, bearing in mind the RSPB have been alerted to the situation but so far have failed to take any action, can you please attach your views using the comment submission box below this story. Thank you Editor.

Golden Eagle Head-1

I would be very interested in any advice you can give me. I live in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, where we have a growing population of both golden eagles and sea eagles. On the whole they’re fairly safe, and thriving in the Harris mountains and along remote shorelines. However, there’s one or two pairs of golden eagles which have chosen to settle much closer to villages and it’s one of these pairs I am most concerned about. They’ve been located in one specific area for about 15 years according to the RSPB although we’ve only seen them there for the last 3 years. Apparently they have nested every year, but failed to raise any chick due to the local crofters robbing the nest. The crofters appear to think the eagles take their lambs. They may take the odd sickly or dead lamb but the nest site is only a mile or so from a huge area of sandy dunes which is inundated with literally hundreds of rabbits!

Golden Eagle Chicks-1

A pair of Golden Eagles successfully raised a single eaglet at the site in question for the first time in many years.

The RSPB appear to know what’s been going on, but seem either unwilling or unable to do anything about prosecuting the crofters. The wildlife crimes officer is based on the mainland, and I’ve never known an instance where he’s come across here to deal with anything! An eaglet successfully hatched this year, more by luck than anything else I think, and my husband and I notified the RSPB of this event – we thought the Society would try and provide a bit of protection for the nest or something but nothing really happened. They didn’t even bother to go and ring the eaglet! Thankfully the chick was safe this year, we saw her shortly after she fledged. But I fear for any future chicks. Is there anything we can do, or any other body we can contact to try and help protect this nesting site? We’re doing all the obvious stuff like keeping the location of the eyrie fairly secret, not visiting too often, educating children etc.


Thank you for agreeing to post my concerns on the Raptor Politics web site, I sincerely hope someone may be interested enough to enclose their advice via the comments link below? Margaret


4 comments to Nesting Golden Eagles at risk from crofters in the Outer Hebrides, can anyone offer any advice?

  • Keith Duncan

    Suggest contacting the police wildlife crime officer. There is an officer based in the western isles. Alternatively, contact the full time wildlife crime officer (Dan Sutherland) who covers the Highlands and Islands. Dan is based in the Dingwall station.

  • Do all of the above, but also alert the raptor study group (contact us if you need details) and with their cooperation install a long life trail camera in a hidden spot to record any illegal or questionable activity.

  • Robin Reid

    Dear Margaret,
    I work for the RSPB on the Western Isles based in Harris and chair the local raptor study group on Lewis and Harris. There are a few eagle nests on the Islands that have historically received persecution through disturbance, egg collecting or muirburn. However, this activity has declined and a full survey of golden eagles last year revealed that the population has increased and is fairing very well. We don’t have evidence that any pairs are still regularly persecuted and I’m not aware of the situation described. Please get in touch to provide more details so that we can react to this situation. We also have a new Wildlife Liaison Officer based in Tarbert on Harris who should be contacted.

    Kind Regards
    Robin Reid, RSPB Western Isles Conservation Officer

    Editor’s Comment. Robin, we are sure Margaret will pick your comments up, no doubt she or her husband will now get in touch with you to try and resolve this problem.

  • alan

    I don’t understand what Margret means by saying “an eaglet hatched this year, more by luck”.
    There isn’t any luck against nest robbers.
    They either rob or don’t.
    It sounds to me that whatever persecution was happening has stopped this year, and hopefully will continue to do so.