Of the 6 species of Eagles nesting in Estonia 5 nest here regularly each year: white-tailed eagle, golden eagle, osprey, greater and lesser spotted eagle. Only the last confirmed nesting of short-toed eagles took place at the beginning of the 1970s.
Number of breeding eagles and black stork in Estonia
|Species||Number in pairs|
|Greater spotted eagle||25-30|
|Lesser spotted eagle||500-600|
There are three main directions in the protection of eagles: habitat protection, monitoring and spreading information among people. In case of some species of eagles, e.g. ospreys, it is important to build artificial nests instead of the nests that have fallen down. Contemporary forestry is considered as one of the most significant factors influencing the population of eagles. Forestry influences the well-being of eagles in four ways:
- nest trees or possible alternative nest trees are cut down,
- cutting takes place in the area that protects nest trees (nest trees stay open to winds and the danger of predation and disturbance increases)
- disturbing the nesting of eagles with forestry works during nesting period.
Since eagles use suitable nesting sites for decades, the main purpose of the protection activities so far has been to protect their suitable nesting sites (nests together with the protection area). For that purpose an area with a radius of up to 500 m depending on the species is set up around the nesting sites where economic activities and also presence of human beings during nesting time are forbidden.
In the near future more emphasis should be put on the protection of the entire habitat of eagles. The habitat of eagles consists of a nesting site and the nearby feeding area. With spreading information and through various planning processes we must preserve bays rich in birds and fish that are important for eagles, meadows near rivers, untouched wastelands and avoid the establishment of villages and roads or construction of power lines near the nesting sites of eagles.
The best example of the successful efforts conservationists have made is the protection of eagles. Only thirty-forty years ago white-tailed eagles, for example, were almost disappearing from Northern Europe. The eagles were on the verge of extinction mostly due to dangerous environmental toxins. Last century in the 1970s the use of extra dangerous pesticides and toxins containing heavy metals was prohibited in the Baltic Sea states. Thanks to this prohibition the number of sea eagles has increased here as well as elsewhere in Western Europe in the past decades but nevertheless the sea eagle is still among endangered species. By now sea eagles have again become regular inhabitants in our coastal areas. It is estimated that there are around 150 pairs of them in Estonia.
Eagles are endangered for the following reasons:
- It is characteristic to eagles to have a large home area (up to 40 km2), low birth rate (on average 1 eaglet per nest), long immaturity period (young birds mature around 4-5 years of age) and high death rate of immature birds (up to 75%). Therefore, they are very slow in mating and long-term negative impact of human activities lead to a decrease in their number.
- The habitat of eagles are object of interest for humans: bodies of water for transportation, fishing, holidaying and water resources as well as old forests for the timber industry;
- As end consumers eagles are endangered due to environmental toxins.
- Eagles have not really got accustomed to human activities; they are sensitive to disturbances during nesting and changes in environmental conditions in nesting sites.
- As birds of prey golden eagles and sea eagles have for a long time been regarded negatively by humans, especially due to the fact that human beings have considered them as competition in food. Historically, this has caused the destruction and persecution of eagles.