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White-tailed eagle could make comeback

PUBLISHED: 08:59 24 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:10 06 July 2010

SUFFOLK'S stunning coastline has been earmarked as a potential new site to re-introduce a bird extinct from England since the 19th century.

The white-tailed eagle, also known as the sea eagle, is set to become the latest local resident after wildlife expert's pinpointed Suffolk as the best possible future home in a three-year study of eastern England from the Humber to the Thames.

SUFFOLK'S stunning coastline has been earmarked as a potential new site to re-introduce a bird extinct from England since the 19th century.

The white-tailed eagle, also known as the sea eagle, is set to become the latest local resident after wildlife expert's pinpointed Suffolk as the best possible future home in a three-year study of eastern England from the Humber to the Thames.

At the centre of a string of wetland habitats stretching from The Wash to the Thames Estuary areas of the Suffolk coast are likely to offer the best habitat to encourage the white-tailed eagle to re-establish itself in England.

Natural England and the RSPB assisted by the Forestry Commission have assessed the options and want to gather the views of local landowners, livestock farmers, conservation organisations and the general public in a survey being conducted over the next few weeks.

Natural England's chief scientist, Tom Tew, said: “Our analysis of the Suffolk coast has produced encouraging results in terms of identifying potential sites that could form the base for a future re-introduction.

“The task now is to ensure an open and informed debate about whether, and how, to move forward.”

Mark Avery, the RSPB's Director of Conservation, added: “These birds belong to lowland England as surely as they belong to the sea cliffs of Scotland.

“Man is the reason they are missing and it is for us to put that right.

“It is also why we must do this properly and with regard to people and wildlife nearby. The RSPB want eagles back, but without a return to the conflicts and misunderstandings that led to their extinction.”

The white-tailed eagle's huge wingspan, shock of white tail feathers and bright-eyed glare were once much more common sights. Once widespread in lowland England, the species was persecuted to extinction by the early 19th century. By the early 20th century, they were also extinct in Scotland.

The bird has now been successfully re-established on the west coast of Scotland after two earlier releases, and a third series of releases is underway in eastern Scotland.

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