Golden Boy: England's last golden eagle

A catastrophic drop in numbers has left just one lone member of a magnificent species

A A A

Swooping over the Lake District, this is Golden Boy, a magnificent 10-year-old golden eagle with a massive 6ft wingspan. He is also the last of his kind.

Famously elusive and enigmatic, Golden Boy was photographed last week hunting for mice, foxes and lambs on thermals above the hills.

At the same time, scientists and ornithologists were debating how to ensure that the bird's death does not mean the end of a creature that has a legendary place in English history.

For centuries, the golden eagle has symbolised power and stealth. Painted on the shields and crests of English armies throughout the ages, it is still the emblem of the RAF.

Despite a healthy population in the 1970s, and 80s the number of English golden eagles, found only in the Lake District, has dwindled fast. Only Golden Boy now remains.

Until recently, he had a 28-year-old female companion who had occupied a remote valley site with him on the 9,500-hectare Haweswater Estate, near Penrith. Sadly, she has since died, shattering hopes that a depleted eagle population could once again flourish there.

RSPB wardens on the estate have recently been witnessing Golden Boy performing spectacular display flights in the hope of attracting another female, but they don't hold much hope of him finding a mate.

David Shackleton, from the RSPB, said: "Although it's not impossible, it is quite unlikely that the introduction of a foreign female would work. We don't like to be too pessimistic, though. There is a small chance that a bird could fly all the way from Scotland, as they once did in the late Fifties."

Golden eagles first bred in the area in 1969, having been present in the Lake District since the late 1950s. The original birds would have found their way from the Dumfries and Galloway regions, where there is said to be around 420 pairs.

The Haweswater eagles have produced 16 young over the years, but since 1996 no young have fledged and no eggs have been laid in four of the last five years.

With the increase in the human population over the years, the birds' natural habitats have declined, but conservationists remain optimistic that this does not have to be the end of an era. David Crawshaw, environment manager for United Utilities, which owns and manages the estate, said: "Everyone will be hoping that a new female will arrive, and if this happens then there is a very good chance that we may once again see successful nesting by these wonderful birds of prey."

King of the skies

* A huge bird of prey - in the UK, only the white-tailed eagle is larger

* Golden eagles soar and glide on air currents, holding their wings in a shallow 'V'

* Maximum lifespan is thought to be 30 years

* Golden eagles mate for life. They build several nests, known as eyries, within their territory

* Nests consist of heavy tree branches, upholstered with grass

* Maximum wingspan is 240cm (95ins)

* Golden eagle pairs share the hunting: one partner drives the prey to its waiting partner

* Prey includes: hares, mice, birds, foxes and sometimes young sheep

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?