Image: Iceland Review

Record Summer for White-Tailed Eagle Nestlings

 In Nature, News

This summer was a record summer for eagle nestlings since measurements on the white-tailed eagle began. There are two nestlings in unusually many nests. This can most likely be traced to decent weather conditions according to an animal ecologist.

At one point in time, the white-tailed eagle was in danger of extinction, but the population has steadily grown over the last half-century. It is believed that the population will continue to grow in coming decades, spreading to all parts of the country.

Around 87 different areas are occupied by eagles this summer, with around 300 total birds in the population. The white-tailed eagle only lives in West Iceland and the Westfjords while they laid eggs all around the country in the past.

Kristinn Haukur Skarphéðinsson from The Icelandic Institute of Natural History says that egg-laying has gone very well this summer and that a record number of eagle nestlings have managed to fly from their nests since measurements started. The prerequisites for a good egg-laying is that the weather conditions stay stable from the time the egg-laying starts in April until June and July.

“There were eggs in 65 nests this spring, but for some reason, there are always a few that are miscarried,” Kristinn said. Scientists know now of 59 nestlings in 39 nests. The eagle normally lays 2-3 eggs but only one nestling makes it most of the time. There can be a number of reasons for this. The eggs can be sterile, the nestlings can die young, or all of the nestlings might not make it if there is a dearth of food. According to Kristinn, the weather has played its part as the eagles seem to have an abundance of food.

From extinction to repopulation

At one point in time, the white-tailed eagle population was in danger of extinction as it numbered only 20 pairs. The bird was officially protected in 1913 and has grown slowly but steadily for the last half-century or so. Kristinn says that many ancient eagle nest areas are deserted but that the eagles will slowly start to repopulate areas which they lived in. Eventually, if the birds are let be, they will repopulate the whole of the country. However, Kristinn believes that nature sets a cap for around 200-300 pairs.

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