Red Kites (right)
and White-tailed Eagles are once more breeding in the wild in Britain
following successful re-introduction programmes. The Osprey is being re-introduced
to England. The Chough is being considered for re-introduction to Cornwall.
Other species are being considered for projects which will extend their
range into former haunts.
Man has long known
how to introduce new species, Canada Goose, Mandarin and Little Owl spring
to mind, but bringing back species which used to occur and became extinct
is a far harder, but far more worthy, aim. The first successful attempt
took place rather longer ago than some people imagine, when Capercaillies
were brought from Scandinavia in the 1830s and released in Scotland, to
replace those which had become extinct about 50-60 years earlier. Sadly,
the Capercaillie population is currently in serious decline, but at least
we know that it would be possible to re-introduce it once more, if that
The first attempt
at re-introduction in modern times took place when four young White-tailed
Eagles from Norway were released on Fair Isle. Sadly, they either wandered
away or died within about a year and the experiment was not repeated there.
In 1975, an ongoing programme started on the island of Rum and groups
of young birds were brought in and released in following years. The first
nesting attempt took place in 1983 and the first chick was reared in 1985.
Progress was very slow, however, and in 1993 it was decided to bring in
more young birds from Norway. This gave the necessary boost to numbers
and the population now exceeds 20 breeding pairs and has spread both north
and south along the west coast of Scotland.
(left - adult White-tailed eagle)
The Red Kite was
the next species to which attention turned. Release sites in northern
Scotland and southern England were selected and young birds brought in
from Scandinavia and Spain from 1989 onwards. Breeding in the wild took
place in England in 1991 and in Scotland a year later and there are now
well-established populations in both areas, with additional releases taking
place in further sites. Most
recently, young Ospreys have been taken from nests in Scotland and released
at Rutland Water in eastern England and it looks as if breeding will take
place there in the near future.
this kind can only take place under licence from the appropriate government
agency and internationally agreed criteria, regarding, for example, the
source of the birds and the suitability of the release area, must be satisfied.
Having successfully brought back two raptor species which man drove into
extinction, it is perhaps natural that attention should turn to other
possibilities, and not just birds. Beavers will very soon be released
in Scotland and there are certainly those who would like to see wolves
follow them. But they, perhaps fortunately, are outside the scope of this
Ogilvie is a natural history writer and editor, formerly a research
scientist with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and resident
on the island of Islay since 1986. Until 1997, a member of the
'British Birds' editorial board and also one of the editorial
team which produced 'Birds of the Western Palearctic'.