West Sussex twitches for rare visit by white-tailed eagle

A rare juvenile while-tailed eagle seen at Amberley Wildbrooks, West Sussex, on Saturday, December 11, 2010''Picture by David Shaw (davidshawwildife.co.uk)
A rare juvenile while-tailed eagle seen at Amberley Wildbrooks, West Sussex, on Saturday, December 11, 2010''Picture by David Shaw (davidshawwildife.co.uk)
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BRITAIN’S largest bird of prey paid a rare visit to the south when it was spotted at the RSPB Amberley Wildbrooks.

There are 49 breeding pairs of white-tailed eagles in Scotland, but one has not been seen in Sussex for 50 years.

Experts believe the juvenile bird had been forced further south-west, due to severe winter weather, from Scandinavia or the Baltic where there is a large population.

Peter Hughes, RSPB warden, said: “When I got a call on Saturday [December 11] lunchtime from someone who said he was watching a white-tailed eagle at Amberley Wildbrooks, I’ll admit I was a little sceptical at first. But fifteen minutes later I was there too, watching this magnificent bird.”

White-tailed eagles are mainly found in northern Europe.

They became extinct in the UK during the early 19th century due to persecution, but through a reintroduction programme there is now a small UK population which is confined to Scotland.

Mr Hughes added: “The big fella spent most of Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning on the Amberley brooks, causing the local crows a great deal of worry and being admired by many local birders, before heading off west.”