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Long distance love triangle for east coast sea eagles

A male sea eagle has successfully raised chicks from two different nests in East Scotland for the first time ever in Scotland.

The eight year old male sea eagle, known as Turquoise Z, has been travelling between Angus and Fife visiting two nests, more than 28 miles apart, and raising chicks with two different females.

This unusual behaviour, known as polygamy, is rarely recorded in sea eagles. It has been seen on the west coast of Scotland on a handful of occasions but these nests were just a few miles apart and the demands of providing enough food for both nests always resulted in failure .

Remarkably, despite the vast distance between the two nests on the east coast of Scotland, there has been a successful outcome. At the nest in Fife, Turquoise Z has raised a female chick tagged Blue X with his usual partner and he has also managed to raise another female chick tagged Blue V at the nest in Angus with a new female.

Owen Selly, RSPB Scotland Sea Eagle Project Officer said: “We were astonished to discover Turquoise Z had two nests on the go. I really didn’t expect them to succeed but these remarkable birds have beaten the odds.”

“Without the wing tags, which allow us to identify individual birds, we would never have uncovered this extraordinary story. It is also thanks to a dedicated team of local volunteers from RSPB Scotland and the Tayside Raptor Study Group, who have been our eyes and ears on the ground, helping monitor the movements of Turquoise Z and the activity at each of the nests.”

“The success of a male sea eagle fledging chicks from two nests is a first for Scotland and we’re all very excited to see what they do next.”

Turquoise Z was released in 2009 as part of the East Scotland reintroduction, and has been breeding in a Forest Enterprise Scotland Woodland in Fife since 2013 with a female released in the same year, known as Turquoise 1.

In April, RSPB Scotland staff were surprised to spot Turquoise Z at a nest site in Angus, sharing the incubation of eggs with another female sea eagle, a six year old bird known as Red Z. They originally thought that he had abandoned his mate in Fife for a new younger female in the Angus glens. However, Turquoise Z continued to visit the Fife nest and staff and volunteers watched in astoundment as he incubated eggs and provided food at both nests.

Over the breeding season, he was seen leaving the Fife nest and arriving at the Angus nest a full 90 minutes later – a long journey for this remarkable bird, who still had to take shifts incubating, provide food for both females and feed himself.

Andrew Stevenson, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) Ornithologist said: “Such polygamous pairing or indeed trios of birds attending a nest has occasionally been recorded as the reintroduced population has established, but what’s amazing here is the distance between the two nests and the fact that both have been successful. It’s really important for the birds breeding in the east of Scotland to be successful in their early years to help establish the population.”

Both sea eagle chicks have now taken their first flight from the nests and will soon be hunting for themselves. They have been fitted with wing tags and satellite transmitters so that their movements can be followed over the coming months as they leave their parents’ territories and start to explore Scotland.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the east coast sea eagle reintroduction and the birds are starting to become a more familiar sight. To celebrate, RSPB Scotland is inviting people to a special event in Tayport on Saturday 26 August. Visitors will be able to hear more about the project from speakers, find out more remarkable stories about these birds and there will be plenty of activities to entertain the whole family. The event will take place on the Common, by Tayport Promenade from 12 – 4 pm. For more information contact the RSPB Tayside and Fife Office on 01738 630783.

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