Golden eagles could return to Beskydy mountains after 100-year absence

Golden Eagle, photo: Juan Lacruz, Creative Commons 3.0

Ornithologists in the Beskydy mountains in the far east of the country are celebrating the possible return of the golden eagle after an absence of more than 100 years. A project to reintroduce young eagles to the area appears to have borne fruit – two of the birds have formed a pair, and have now started building a nest.

Golden Eagle,  photo: Juan Lacruz,  Creative Commons 3.0
The project to reintroduce golden eagles to the Beskydy mountains has been going since 2006, with a total of thirteen birds released into the wild. Several have been lost; some died of natural causes, others have been electrocuted on high-tension wires and one was deliberately poisoned last year near Prague. But now ornithologists have reason to celebrate; a young male has started building a nest with a female. Petr Orel, the project’s manager, told Radio Prague how the two had found each other.

“Well, the male – David - was released in 2006. Young eagles tend to cover enormous distances – up to 100 kilometres from where they were released. All the birds are fitted with transmitters so we can track their movements, and we’ve been able to see that he’s chosen to come back to one area. The female – Philomena – she’s a year younger, and was also inclined to the same area. And I guess they just fell for each other, and today they’ve formed a nesting pair.”

Petr Orel there - and the eagle-eyed among you will know that ‘orel’ is the Czech word for eagle. He believes that because of David’s young age the pair will not produce any young this year, though he’s optimistic for 2011.

Golden eagles are right at the top of the food chain; they have no natural predators. The threat to their survival, of course, comes from homo sapiens. Petr Orel says their location is being kept top secret; not so much to protect them from poachers or hunters; he’s worried if the area starts to attract hordes of curious tourists, the birds will simply disappear.

In fact all sorts of wildlife has been returning to the Beskydy mountains in the last decade, a testament to improved environmental legislation since the end of communism and stricter measures to protect wildlife throughout the Carpathian mountain range, from its source in Romania all the way to Moravia. Bears and wolves have already been sighted in the Beskydy; now, thanks to this latest project to return eagles to the wild, the golden eagle could once again become a permanent fixture.