One of Scotland’s most iconic creatures could make a return to the Borders next year as part of a repopulation drive.
Golden eagles taken from nests in the Highlands and Islands may be released in southern Scotland as early as next summer subject to checks and consultations.
If all goes according to plan, as many as eight birds will be released each summer, over the next three to five years.
A report published by Scottish Natural Heritage in 2014 found the area could support between 11 and 13 pairs. Some experts believe the figure could be higher still, with as many as 16 breeding pairs.
It is thought the relocated birds could eventually help the species extend its range back into Cumbria and Northumberland.
The South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project is supported by Buccleuch Estates, the landowners’ organisation Scottish Land and Estates, RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage.
The chief executive of Scottish Land and Estates, Doug McAdam, said this week: “Landowners value golden eagles, they are one of our most iconic birds and I think people will work hard with us to make this project a success.
“Often landowners are portrayed as the villain here and against golden eagles and nothing could be further from the truth.”
Duncan Orr Ewing of RSPB Scotland added: “The initial scoping work by the partnership is showing healthy prospects for a thriving golden eagle population in this area.
“We hope to secure official approval in due course to make this project a reality, following engagement with the local community.”