Madrid’s Barajas Airport has had some unique new arrivals this week in the form of white-tailed eagles which are part of a conversation plan to reintroduce the huge bird of prey to one of its ancient habitats.
The eagle – which can have a wingspan of nearly 8ft (2.4 metres) – has been considered extinct on the Iberian Peninsula since the 19th century.
Thirteen of the 18 white-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) – raised in Norway – will be released in the wild at the end of the summer.
The white-tailed eagles will live in a special enclosure near the town of Pimiango in the Spanish region of Asturias for several months to acclimatise to local conditions.
The birds are the second group to be released in Asturias as part of the Pigargo Project, organised by the conservationist association GREFA and the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.
The project also involves the collaboration of the Principality of Asturias, the City Council of Ribadedeva (Asturias), the Government of Cantabria, the Norwegian Environment Agency, the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) and the company EDP.
The sea eagle, considered the largest eagle in Europe, is one of eight species of birds that appear on the List of Extinct Species in Spain.
The 18 sea eagles were born in Norway this year and arrived at the Adolfo Suarez Madrid–Barajas Airport on 26th June where they were collected by GREFA representatives.
The birds were then taken to the association’s recovery centre in Majadahonda in the Community of Madrid for health checks and to be fitted with a GPS tracker to follow their movements when they are released at the end of the summer.
Thirteen of the 18 eagles were then transferred to the Asturian town of Pimiango where they will learn to fly in a special enclosure. The five remaining white-tailed eagles are considered too small and will remain at the GREFA centre for the time being.