Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Walkers spot missing bald eagle Pilgrim in Perthshire

Pilgrim has a 7ft wingspan and was hand-reared in captivity
3 May 2011

Fears are growing for a bald eagle, described as a "big softie", who has been missing from a falconry in Perthshire since Saturday.

Nine-year-old Pilgrim has been sighted by walkers in the Sherriffmuir hills, a few miles from his home at Phoenix Falconry, near Auchterarder.

He was chased from there at the weekend by a pair of wild buzzards.

Staff at the centre have been unable to catch him and said it was now "a race against time" to rescue the eagle.

Pilgrim, who has a 7ft (2.1m) wingspan, was hand-reared in captivity and does not know how to hunt and feed himself in the wild.

It was feared that he had flown hundreds of miles away but several sightings over the weekend suggest he has remained closer to home.

Head falconer Adrian Hallgarth said: "Some walkers spotted him on Sunday on Sheriffmuir, and we had several reliable sightings on Monday evening.

"On each occasion these people were alerted by him being beaten up by buzzards.

"In the air he presents a large target for these aggressive birds, so he'll be driven to ground to keep a low profile and that's making it harder to find him. It is a race against time now."

Mr Hallgarth said he was convinced Pilgrim remained in the area and said he was worried the bird of prey could be mobbed to death by other birds, killed on a road or even shot.

He added: "He can't hunt and my greatest fear is that in desperation he will go for road kill on the nearby A9 and be run over. Or he could be shot by someone trying to protect their sheep.

"It is also possible he could be mobbed to death as buzzards and crows are protecting their nests at this time of year and will see him as a threat."
Tracking equipment

This is the third time Pilgrim has gone missing from the Perthshire falconry.

Tracking equipment used to locate him after previous escapes failed to register anything over the weekend.

The eagle is used to being handled by hundreds of visitors at the falconry, but inexperienced members of the public were warned not to approach him.

Staff at the centre are continuing their search.

Mr Hallgarth added : "I am his 'dad'. If he sees me he will come straight to me. I just hope it is not too late."


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