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Sea eagle (Haliaeetus) 207012 Peter Cairns (rspb-images.com)24/02/2009

The ‘eagle with the sunlit eye’ is the poetic term in Gaelic for one of the largest flying birds in Europe. Re-introduced in the late 1970s using chicks brought from arctic Norway, the Scottish sea eagle population is now making a slow comeback, mainly in the islands of the Hebrides.

What to look for

Think ‘flying barn door’ and you won’t be far off. Sea eagles are huge, with big, broad wings. The beak is also massive. They tend to fly with slow flaps. Young birds have mottled brown plumage. As they age, sea eagles develop paler head plumes and distinctive white tail feathers, hence the alternative name ‘white-tailed sea eagle’.

Interesting facts

In Norway, sea eagles have a particularly strong link with otters. They like to scavenge the remains of inshore fish - such as lumpsucker - left by otters. As is beginning to happen in Scotland, the territories of the two often overlap.

When and where to see

Sea eagles stay here all year. Best areas for viewing are in the Hebrides - both Inner and Outer - scene of the Scottish population’s re-introduction. There’s a hide with views of a nest site at Loch Frisa, near Dervaig, on Mull, accessible in summer through pre-booked, ranger-led trips. Both the west and south parts of the island are sea eagle hotspots. A boat trip there could give you a chance of seeing a sea eagle offshore, while a circular trip along the B8035 and A849 from east to west Mull and back again might allow you (with luck) to see both golden and sea eagles.

For more information see Mullbirds and White-tailed Sea Eagles on Mull.