Confrontation

s this the best White-tailed Eagle photograph ever taken?

The Isle of Mull is recognised as having the highest density of eagles anywhere in Europe. The boundaries of any White-tailed Eagle territory on the island are likely to overlap with the home ranges of other White-tailed Eagles and Golden Eagles. The opportunity for confrontation exists on a daily basis for a White-tailed Eagle on the island , whether it be seeing off the unwanted harassment of a Hooded Crow, Raven, Kestrel or Buzzard, or a serious spat with a neighbouring Golden Eagle. Although smaller in size, it is the Golden Eagle that shows belligerence towards its larger cousin, often coming out on top of any aerial skirmishes with White-tailed Eagles.

Most encounters that White-tailed Eagles on Mull have with smaller birds fall into the mildly annoying category, similar to the way that midges irritate humans on warm, damp Summer evenings on the island. However, once in a while, a smaller assailant will punch above its weight, causing the White-tailed Eagle under attack to sit up and take notice. Although not taken in Scotland, this action shot by Finnish wildlife photographer, Markus Varesvuo , encapsulates such a David and Goliath moment, when the smaller aggressor can inflict discomfort and damage on its victim.

Many would think the Common Gull in the photograph to have a death wish, yet its belligerent attitude has, on this occasion, turned prey into predator, of sorts. On the Isle of Mull, we are used to seeing such superlative images of the island’s White-tailed Eagles. However, there is something very special about the encounter captured by Markus. It is, undoubtedly, the best White-tailed Eagle photograph ever taken (until the next one comes along!).

We are grateful to Markus for allowing the use of this photograph, which is only one of many exciting images of birds contained in his beautiful book’Birds: Magic Moments’.

Conflict: Golden Eagle versus White-tailed Eagle

Much has been supposed regarding the potential for conflict between eagles on the Isle of Mull, where the territories of Golden Eagle frequently merge with those of White-tailed Eagle. However, even on those occasions when both species can be seen in the same field of view, rarely do they come together in direct conflict. On the Isle of Mull, there appears to be a harmonious, if rather grudging, respect shown by these avian monarchs to one another. When there is a falling out of these two avian giants it can result in considerable harm to one or both of the birds involved. When a White-tailed Eagle has disappeared from its territory in the past on the island there has often been the assumption that it may have met its demise at the beak and talons of another eagle, be it Golden Eagle or White-tailed Eagle.

In the seventy years after the White-tailed Eagle had become locally extinct from British skies, the Golden Eagle would have been able to expand its territories into the former domains of the White-tailed Eagle. This may have involved assuming dominion over what were previously White-tailed Eagle eyries, especially those that were on coastal cliff locations.