Rare White-Tailed Eagle, Iconic for Europeans, Breeds Again after 500 Years Missing in Belgium

White-tailed eagle adult on the island of Hiiumaa in Estonia – Karl Adami CC 4.0. SA

White-tailed eagles nesting and breeding in Belgium has been observed for the first time since Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano became the first European to look upon the island of Manhattan.

White-tailed eagle - Wikipedia

That means 500 years ago, and while they are not an endangered bird, it’s a sign of a brilliant comeback from a bird that had been heavily depopulated across most of Western Europe.

One chick was recorded hatching at De Blankaart nature reserve in West Flanders to a pair of mates called Paul and Betty, and a second chick is expected soon.

Where can I see the White-tailed Eagle in the wild

While parts of Norway, Russia, and Germany will find this bird, also known as the sea eagle or grey sea eagle, a joyous yet not uncommon sight, it’s a rare yuletide passerby in Belgium.

Rushing in to protect Paul and Betty, the local government set up an area around the nest where intruders are threatened with a fine of up to €500,000.

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Recently, populations have appeared in eastern France and the Netherlands, and reintroductions have been carried out in Great Britain and Ireland. As one of Europe’s chief eagles, the return of the once widely distributed bird is long overdue.

UK's oldest sea eagle recorded on Isle of Mull - BBC News

Numbers fell particularly fast in the 20th century coinciding with an increased agricultural chemical burden that has now been largely lifted off the landscape.

As a result, there are now over 6,000 breeding pairs in Europe, and the species is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List.

White-tailed Eagle Bird Facts (Haliaeetus albicilla) | Birdfact

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Still, tell that to the Belgians who for 500 years have almost never seen an animal that was once fairly common to their land.

White-tailed eagle guide: what they eat, why they went extinct in the UK,  and where they've been reintroduced - Discover Wildlife

Iconic for Europeans as far back as 6,000 years, when sea eagle bones were ceremonially interred with human remains, they are present on coats of arms, in Pictish and other carvings, and their talons have been found to with notches cut by Neanderthals.


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