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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee