Major increase in eagle nests where gamekeepers work

There has been a 57% rise in eagle nests on gamekeeper managed ground in only 7 years.
Image of Golden Eagle and 2 day old chick by Michael Callan

A new survey has shown a 57% increase in eagle nests in only 7 years in Scotland on land managed by professional gamekeepers.


The national study, following on from similar surveys in 2013 and 2015, was conducted by The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, which has 5300 members in Scotland.

Officials asked members for locational details of active eagle nests on the ground they manage, with 35 new nests mapped from the previous survey carried out in 2015.

Reintroduced sea eagles featured for the first time, with 5 new territories mapped while there were 11 new golden eagle nests within the Cairngorms National Park boundary and 10 in the Monadhliath Mountains; the area showing the biggest geographic rise since 2015.

From the 2015 survey, 2 of the 58 territories were no longer used by eagles but the 35 new nests amounted to a significant surge from 58 to 91 nests between 2015 and 2022.

Graph shows the remarkable conservation success story on land managed by Scottish gamekeepers.

The actual increase is likely to be greater, with large parts of the west coast and Sutherland not enjoying the same survey coverage as areas of central and eastern Scotland.

Similarly, south Scotland was not mapped although officials from The South of Scotland Golden Eagle project stated recently that 19 of the 23 eaglets translocated to bolster populations in the region had come from Scottish game estates.

Remarkably, in the Cairngorms National Park there are now 37 active eagle nests on land managed by gamekeepers for grouse, pheasants, deer or other game species.

“There will hardly be a conservation charity in Europe which could match such a success rate in a similar timeframe,” said Alex Hogg, MBE, Chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA).

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg, MBE, is delighted with the eagle conservation success on gamekeeper managed ground.

“What this emphasises is that Conservation is not just a thing which is done by charities using public and lottery finance. We need to move away from that mindset if we are to achieve nature goals in Scotland and support and involve everyone who can deliver tangible results.

“Every day there are skilled people working in game, farming, crofting and fishing communities who are active in their own fields, who are supporting the economy, producing food and sustaining nature through their management and skills simply because they like to see wildlife around them.

“They don’t fit easily into the box labelled ‘conservation’ but they are the silent, un-tapped delivery army which Scotland needs to mobilise and support - they should be at the heart of the solutions for nature.”

In 2016 it was announced that numbers of golden eagles in Scotland had risen to the highest level since monitoring began, with a rise from 442 breeding pairs to 508 between 2003 and 2015.

That saw the species move from being red-listed as a species of conservation concern to green listed.

Habitat and predator management  by gamekeepers helps eagles, providing a ready food source in the shape of game birds, hares and deer, which enhances breeding productivity.

A grouse estate in the south was recently in the news, constructing artificial eyries to attract nesting Borders eagles.

Proof of Progress

SGA Committee member Ronnie Kippen acknowledges detractors will always cite persecution of eagles by a small minority within the game sector as a caveat to progress, but is delighted with what the survey shows.

“No one at the SGA is denying persecution. What this survey shows, though, is statistical proof of progress and genuine conservation action in areas where professional gamekeepers are operating.

“There will always be negative voices. But these results are undeniable in that they show proven benefits to Scotland’s wildlife.”


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