Golden Eagle Chick
North Harris has one of the highest densities of golden eagles in the Europe. This is a result of plenty of good quality habitat for this species combined with very little human disturbance. We would like to share with you some of the work undertaken here by Natural Research Ltd with support from the Lewis and Harris Raptor Study Group and the North Harris Trust.
Gleann Miabhaig sits in the centre of North Harris and is the site of our famous Eagle Observatory that has allowed many thousands of visitors and locals to enjoy the majesty of this iconic species without disturbing the breeding pair in the surrounding territory.
Breeding was successful for the Gleann Miabhaig pair and a male chick hatched sometime in early May 2019. He was identified as a good candidate for a nationwide satellite tracking project. The aim of this Natural Research project is to discover more about the golden eagle lifecycle between fledging and establishing a territory. It will give a greater understanding of how these birds interact with their environment and are impacted by human land use.
The process of reaching maturity can take up to five years and relatively little is known about this interesting stage of their lives. The Gleann Miabhaig chick was tagged in June 2019. This involves fitting a small rucksack-type harness which weighs only 1-2% of the eagle body weight and sends its location via satellites several times a day.
Juvenile golden eagles usually spend a few months within their parent’s territory after they fledge until they have perfected their flying and hunting skills. The video above shows some satellite data from September and we can see that this holds true as he does a little exploring but spends most of his time in his natal territory around Gleann Miabhaig. He is just learning how to interact with his environment and at this stage he is making short flights and spending much of his time perching on sheltered crags.
In November we can see how much more active he has become, criss-crossing the glen and even going for a foray up into Lewis for a couple of days. However, he soon realises that Lewis just isn’t quite as great as Harris and comes straight back home! Over the next few months it is likely that this juvenile will leave its natal territory, becoming independent.
Local primary school children at Sgoil an Tairbeart / Sir E Scott School are following his journey and look forward to seeing where he explores as he matures.
It has been a few blustery months since we introduced the Gleann Miabhaig golden eagle and we’d like to share with you how he did over the winter. This time of year can be tough for golden eagles, as there are fewer prey items available and many depend on carrion to survive.
A North Harris golden eagle feasts on red deer.
Golden eagles need about 250g of meat per day, although they can gorge themselves and then go many days without feeding. They can hold almost 1kg of food in their crop, an enlarged muscular pouch in their throat.
Gleann Miabhaig: Where our eagle calls home.
Despite the potential shortage of food, this juvenile male seems to be strong and healthy, moving quickly from one side of the island to the other. He likes to return home to Miabhaig regularly, and who wouldn’t? It’s a beautiful place!