The bird, recovered by police and officers from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which is thought to be female, has a wingspan of more than 6ft. It was found in a wire enclosure in a garden near Chelmsford. RSPB officials believed it to be the first illegally held golden eagle to be recovered in England for 10 years.
Dave Dick, of the RSPB, said most eagles taken from the wild were smuggled abroad: 'There has been a bit of a rise over two or three years . . . we think we lose up to 10 golden eagles a year.'
There is one known pair of wild golden eagles in England, and 430 wild pairs in Scotland. The birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Contraventions carry fines of up to pounds 5,000, but police have so far made no arrests in this case.
The bird - believed to be just a few months old - was being flown from Norwich to Edinburgh in a special container last night.
Experts will decide if it should be released into the wild. Their decision depends on the extent to which it has been 'imprinted' with human identity. 'It is possible that a bird kept in captivity since a chick may think it is human,' Guy Shorrock, an RSPB officer, said.Reuse content