Soaring white tail numbers lift Finland’s sea eagles out of the danger zone

From just 4 chicks born in the mid-1970s to more than 550 born this year, the efforts to prevent species loss in Finland has been a remarkable success.

File picture of white tailed sea eagle / Credit: Wild Wonders of Europe / Widstrand / WWF

Finland’s population of white tailed sea eagles, once on the brink of extinction, have made a remarkable recovery.

New figures from the WWF show that more than 550 chicks have been identified, which makes it the highest number recorded, and confirms the birds are officially no longer a threatened species.

The new landmark figure is up from 502 chicks counted in 2017, and progress has been significant since the mid-1970s when only 4 chicks were born.

WWF says the increased numbers of hatching chicks are due to excellent nesting conditions for the birds in Finland.

“The number of nesting sea eagles has not necessarily increased in recent years, so this means the record number of chicks is due to good breeding conditions” says Heikki Lokki, from WWF’s Sea Eagle Task Force. 

Saving the white tailed sea eagles 

Earlier this year the white tailed sea eagle was removed from the list of endangered species in Finland and reclassified as a viable species.

“Classifying the sea eagle as viable is a great reward to the hundreds of volunteers who have helped save the species. Saving the white tailed sea eagle is a tremendous success story and I want to thank all the people involved in protecting it with all my heart” says WWF Finland Secretary General Liisa Rohweder.

According to WWF, Finland’s population of white tailed sea eagles was threatened as far back as the 1920s.

Despite having a special protected status they were threatened by nest disruptions, felling trees in their traditional habitats, and shooting still into the 1950s.

Later it was discovered that white tailed sea eagles were breeding less due to environmental toxins. For those reasons WWF established a task force of experts and amateur bird watchers, along with land owners and local authorities, to raise awareness of the birds and help protect their nesting sites.  

“The story of the WWF Sea Eagle Task Force is unparalleled in the history of Finnish nature conservation. Although the work of the WWF has now been completed, it is important to continue monitoring the eagle stock” says Jouko Högmander, Chairman at WWF Sea Eagle Task Force. 

“Monitoring stock development and the success of the sea eagle’s nest will provide authorities with very valuable information on the state of the environment and the Baltic Sea” Högmander adds. 

Due to the improved status of the white tailed sea eagles, the responsibility for groundwork to monitor and protect the population is shifting from WWF to the Finnish Osprey Foundation.

The Foundation’s Board of Directors has already been working with the Task Force ahead of the changing responsibilities.