Nature: No golden future for eagles

England's only pair of golden eagles may be getting too old to breed. But even if this is the end for them south of the border, conservationists have no plans to intervene and reintroduce Britain's biggest bird of prey into England.

Since 1969, a single pair have been nesting on a crag overlooking Haweswater in the Lake District. In 1976 the male was replaced by a new arrival and in 1982 the female was replaced by another. Throughout the entire period they have raised 18 chicks, but none are known to have started breeding in England.

The eagles had a long run of bad luck in the 1990s, raising no chicks for four consecutive years, but last year they had one which flew from the nest. This year, it appears that the eggs, laid in March, have failed to hatch once more. Advancing years may be to blame, even though golden eagles can live for 30 years or more. The male is at least 25 and the female is over 18.

There are more than 600 pairs of golden eagles in Scotland. Something about the English upland habitats appears not to suit them, so even if the Lake District pair stopped breeding there would be little point in introducing them deliberately, says the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

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