Saturday, 9 June 2012

Eagles were once widespread across Britain

New study reveals historic range of native species
June 2012. Innovative new research has revealed the impact of human persecution and habitat destruction on Britain and Ireland's native eagle species over a period of 1500 years.
The study, published in the journal Bird Study, indicates that both white-tailed and golden eagles were once found across large tracts of lowland and upland Britain and Ireland but populations plummeted as a result of human activity.
Place-name analysis, historic records and modern knowledge
Using a combination of place-name analysis, historic records and modern knowledge of the species' ecology, researchers were able to estimate the former range and population of both eagles between 500 AD and the present day.
Major declines after 500AD
The resulting maps paint a sad picture of decline as golden eagle numbers dropped by two-thirds from 1000-1500 pairs in 500AD to 300-500 in 1800, while 80-90% of white-tailed eagles were lost over the same period.
Illegal killing
Continued killing by humans eventually led to the extinction of the white-tailed eagle in the early years of the 20th century, while golden eagles still struggle in some parts of their range as a result of illegal killing.
Habitat loss and killing by humans
Richard Evans, of RSPB Scotland and lead author of the study, said: "The results of this study are striking as they provide compelling evidence that eagles were widespread throughout most of Britain and Ireland in the Dark Ages. Between 500 and 1800 we see massive loss of eagle range in the south, which is consistent with the effects of habitat loss and killing by humans, rather than the influence of climate change on habitat, or competitive exclusion, as some have suggested.
"This trend continued in the years up to the First World War, until the only eagles left in all of Britain and Ireland were golden eagles in the highest hills and deer forests of Scotland.

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