THE number of golden eagles in Scotland has increased by 15 per cent in over a decade to 508 pairs, according to a new survey.

In 2003, 442 pairs of the birds of prey were recorded and the upsurge in population indicates a recovery towards levels thought to have been present in Scotland historically.

It is more than likely that Scotland is actually home to the entire UK population of golden eagles, following reports earlier this year that England’s only resident golden eagle is feared to have died.

The national survey was carried out by expert licensed volunteers from the Scottish Raptor Study Group and professional surveyors from the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, co-funded by the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: “The sight of a golden eagle soaring in the sky above is an awe-inspiring part of our natural heritage, and this increase in numbers of golden eagle pairs is great news.

“Across many parts of Scotland there’s been a very welcome turnaround in how people respect these magnificent birds, part of a more enlightened public attitude towards birds of prey.”

He added: “However, the continued absence of golden eagles in some areas of eastern Scotland remains a real cause for concern and suggests that much more work needs to be done.”