The last remaining golden eagle in England is feared dead after it failed to return home for the spring.
The eagle, known as Eddy, had been a resident of Riggindale near Haweswater in the Lake District for the past 15 years.
His mate died 12 years ago, leaving the 20-year-old bird of prey alone and failing to attract another mate.
He was last seen in November 2015.
The Mirror reports:
The eagle was believed to be around 20 years old and attracted bird-lovers from around the UK to its home at Riggindale Valley, near Haweswater in the Lake District.
But Cumbrian RSPB experts have now revealed the bird has not been seen since before the turn of the year – and is feared to have died or fled.
RSPB staff at Haweswater, who operate a special eagle viewpoint at the site, became seriously concerned last month when the eagle failed to appear.
Although not always sighted during the winter, usually in spring the magnificent eagle was seen nest-building and displaying – in vain – to attract a mate.
Lee Schofield, site manager at RSPB Haweswater, said: “When the eagle didn’t appear last month we thought there was a chance he might be hunting in a nearby valley.
“But over the past few weeks we’ve been gradually losing hope.
“We will probably never find out what happened to him but as he was around 19-20 years old, an advanced age for an eagle.
“It’s quite possible that he died of natural causes.”
Golden eagles arrived in the Lake District from Scotland in the late 1950s and a pair first bred at Haweswater in 1969.
Between 1970 and 1996, 16 chicks were born at Haweswater and another second pair of eagles had four chicks in the Lake District between 1970 and 1983.
Mr Schofield said the eagle’s disappearance marks the end of an era as he has been an iconic part of the Haweswater landscape for the past 15 years.
Although golden eagles are more plentiful in North America and across Europe, England had no breeding pairs – and the Cumbria male was the last of its kind in the country.
There are still and handful of birds in Scotland, while in Ireland 46 birds were released into the wild in Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal, from 2001 to 2006.
Those reintroduced Irish golden eagles at the park produced a pair of fledglings for the first time in 2011.
“Depressed numbers” in southern Scotland had hampered the Lake District eagle’s chances of finding a mate, experts said.
Yet regardless of a lack of females, in previous years the bird had been seen “sky dancing” – a series of dives and rises intended to attract a female partner.
Elsewhere in Europe, there are an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs.
An RSPB spokesman said it was “incredibly sad” and added there was “a real sense of loss” among colleagues.
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