For centuries, there’s been an eagle-shaped hole in the skies over England where the majestic white-tailed eagle once soared. The enormous raptor — its wingspan stretches nearly eight feet — was hunted to extinction in the region and near extinction in surrounding areas some 240 years ago. But last August, hope took flight again on the tenuous wings of six baby raptors.
The chicks, as The Guardian reports, were released on the Isle of Wight, in the hope they would someday reclaim their place in the skies of southern Britain. The Isle of Wight was selected for several reasons, according to the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation. For one thing, it’s the last place in southern England they were known to live. Specifically, the last pair to breed was seen back in 1780 on the Isle of Wight’s Culver Cliff. The area is also rich in potential nesting sites, boasting forests and cliffs that can keep young families buffered from the outside world. Finally, as a base for an eagle renaissance, the Isle of Wight is geographically positioned to spread the wealth to England’s southern shores and beyond.
The reintroduction in England was modeled after a successful reintroduction scheme in Scotland where young raptors bred in captivity have thrived in the wild. The six chicks reintroduced in England were taken from Scotland under special license to replicate their success.
Now it seems they are doing just that after the majestic bird was spotted flying above the North York Moors in southern Britain for the first time in centuries. For conservationists, it’s just the first successful step in a project that will hopefully see the birds repopulate once they reach their breeding age in 2024.