Home on the Range
The White-tailed Eagle is a vagrant rather than a migrant, with adult birds tending to be rather sedentary and faithful to their breeding areas. Young eagles, which take up to five years to reach maturity, tend to roam extensively in their early life before selecting a territory and settling down to breed.
The territory of an eagle is called its home range. That of a White-tailed Eagle may encompass between 30 and 70 km² and can overlap with the territory of a Golden Eagle. The Isle of Mull has some of the very best habitats for eagles anywhere in Europe and, consequently, individual territories may not be as large as elsewhere, e.g. mainland Scotland, where feeding, roosting and nesting opportunities may be less abundant. Competition between the two species can be fierce, but is usually limited. As a general rule, most of Mull’s White-tailed Eagle population can be seen at the coast, with Golden Eagles’ preferring mountain and moorland terrain in the island’s hinterland.
Described by some as a generalist predator and scavenger without stringent habitat requirements, the White-tailed Eagle has long been associated with coastal sites and adjacent upland areas in North and West Scotland, where it builds its nest in trees or on rocky crags.
White-tailed Eagles are widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere and may be encountered in conditions that range from desert to Arctic climates, from Greenland, east to Central Asia and Japan. Recent estimates put the world population of these giants of the skies in the region of 18,000 birds. The largest population in Europe is found in Norway, where around 2,000 pairs breed, over 22% of the world population. For those who like statistics, the Scottish population in 2013 equates to around 1% (and increasing) of the global numbers of this species!