Pioneering conservation project reveals new record number of golden eagles in southern Scottish skies and confirms love is in the air for established pair

05 September 2023

South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project partner news release

As part of a series of ground-breaking translocations, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project has today (Tuesday 5 September) revealed that it successfully transported eight more golden eagle chicks from the Scottish Highlands, Perthshire, Angus and the Islands to a secret location in south Scotland this summer. The new additions bring the total population of golden eagles in the south to around 46 – more than quadrupling the population to the highest number recorded in the area for three centuries.

In further significant news for their bid boost the previously low number of golden eagles in the south of Scotland, the project has also revealed two birds, Edward (C09 - one of the first birds that was transported by the project in 2018) and Iona (C24 – who arrived in 2021 and was named by naturalist and TV presenter Iolo Williams) are now paired up in a confidential location close to the town of Moffat, Scotland’s first Eagle Town, which hosts the UK’s only Eagle Festival between 22 and 24 September 2023.

Speaking about the project’s latest news and his involvement as the keynote speaker at this year’s Moffat Eagle Festival, star of BBC Springwatch Iolo Williams said: “It is absolutely fantastic to hear that the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project has once again successfully transported so many golden eagles to the area, and incredibly exciting that Iona, who I was given the honour of naming back in 2021, has settled with Edward near Moffat. The work of this outstanding project is playing a vital role in boosting the small golden eagle population in the south of the country. It is brilliant to think that there is an even greater chance of seeing this iconic predator, which is so important to maintaining a healthy ecosystem, soaring in southern skies. I can’t wait to attend the Moffat Eagle Festival in September, and hopefully quietly spot some of the golden eagles when I’m there.”

Cat Barlow, Project Manager for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, added: “This is an incredible year for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. We are thrilled to bring eight more chicks to the region - the greatest number we have transported in any one summer so far, bringing the population of golden eagles in the area to an all-new record high. And we’re incredibly excited to see some of the first birds that we translocated in the area now nesting together. This is a significant new step in our work to ensure the south of Scotland golden eagle population is self-sustaining and continues to thrive in southern skies for many generations to come.”

Pip Tabor, Manager of the Southern Uplands Partnership, the project’s host charity added: “As a top predator, this majestic bird of prey is fundamental to protecting our local eco system. Before our project began, only three pairs were nesting in the south of Scotland. We’ve now more than quadrupled the population, and though all seem to have settled in the south of Scotland, some of our birds have even travelled as far south as Forest of Bowland and Nidderdale where the species has been extinct for a number of years.

“Our work has only been possible due to the support of National Lottery Heritage Fund, our project staff and partners, NatureScot licensing team, raptor specialists, Advisory Panel members, estate owners and managers, gamekeepers, CalMac Ferries, Visit Moffat, Moffat Eagle Festival revellers and of course the wider community in the south of Scotland.”

Francesca Osowska, NatureScot’s Chief Executive and a passionate supporter of the Project, said: “The key aim of this exciting project is to increase the number of breeding pairs in the south of Scotland, a vital part of our work to reverse biodiversity loss and combat the climate emergency. With wildlife declining across the globe, it is fantastic to hear that the project has translocated so many eagle chicks once again this year and that they’re seeing such positive signs of potential breeding behaviour taking place. Golden eagles are an exciting part of Scotland’s wildlife, and we’re passionate about returning them to places where they used to thrive.

“This is brilliant partnership working, and a great support for the local green economy. Already, we are seeing great success.”

Earlier this year, led by the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, Scottish Raptor Study Group workers in the Scottish Highlands, Islands, Angus and Perthshire carefully collected chicks from a number of supportive estates under licence from NatureScot before taking them to the release site in a confidential location in the Moffat Hills. The birds were then cared for in specially-designed release aviaries and supplementary fed to help them adjust to their new habitat before their release this summer. Experts at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies also provided considerable support throughout the process to monitor the health and wellbeing of the birds.

The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Festival Project partners the Southern Uplands Partnership, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Forestry and NatureScot worked on the project together for more than 11 years before releasing the first eagle chicks in 2018.  Funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, project partners and the Scottish Government, the initiative is a key project under the Government’s ‘Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity’.

Speaking of the latest news, Caroline Clark, Director for Scotland at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “These are hugely significant developments for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project. It is because of the project’s groundbreaking work, impressive partnership working and community engagement, that the project was last year named The National Lottery’s Scottish Project of the Year.

“Through our conversations with National Lottery players, we know that nature is incredibly important to them. The £1.5m funding given to the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project means they can help protect Scotland’s outstanding wildlife and landscapes.”

The eight new arrivals have been named by a range of individuals, school children and organisations, including:

  • Haworth - named after the raptor expert Paul Haworth, one of the Project’s founders who sadly died in 2018 shortly before the first translocation.
  • Talla – named after the Borders Forest Trust’s Talla & Gameshope estate in the Moffat hills, which is currently being rewilded.
  • Maple - Celebrating the Project’s international connections, Maple’s name comes from Vancouver Waldorf School in Canada. The pupils visited the project as part of their own land management and conservation initiative earlier this year. The school said “we thought about how beautiful it would be to name the eagle something that would reflect the environment here in Canada, so that a little bit of our landscape could soar over Scotland's in memory of our trip.”
  • Emiel - named after a donor landowner’s young son who recently died from a rare form of Lymphoma.
  • Paradise - named by the children of Kilchattan Primary School on the Isle of  Colonsay, after an area of the island where sea birds nest.
  • Spirit – a name chosen by primary school pupils within the Hawick catchment.

Supporters of the Moffat Eagle Festival have also named a number of eagles.

Now in its third year, The Moffat Eagle Festival has been organised to help secure vital support for the charity’s continued conservation efforts and celebrate the UK’s first Eagle Town of Moffat. It will showcase the project’s success and the ways in which people can help golden eagles to flourish in southern skies once again. This year’s programme includes a keynote speech by Iolo Williams, a family fun day, an Eagle Hill Fell Run, a motorbike event, a chainsaw demonstration by Moffat-based award-winning carver Peter Bowsher, live music, wildlife and author talks, and more.                                   

For the latest project and festival news, or to donate to the charity initiative, visit: South of Scotland Golden Eagle project website. 


  • The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is:
    • supported by Scottish Land & Estates, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Forestry, NatureScot, and The Southern Uplands Partnership.
    • funded by:
      • £1.5 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund;
      • the Scottish Government; and
      • Scottish Power Renewables.
    • licenced to undertake the work by NatureScot.