Ornithologists are hopeful that the white-tailed sea eagle's return to Denmark has been cemented after the raptors have their best breeding season since its return to the country.
Eagles and other birds of prey had been absent from Denmark since the beginning of the 20th century, due to over hunting and habitat encroachment.
The first white-tailed sea eagles, northern Europe's largest raptor, returned in 1995, and in 1996, the country could claim its first breeding pair. Since then, some 112 eaglets have been successfully reared in the wild.
Ornithologists report that this summer has been the white-tailed sea eagle's best breeding season since its return, with 11 of the 16 nesting pairs giving birth to 24 eaglets in all.
'It's been a nice surprise to see how fertile Denmark's white-tailed sea eagles are,' said Lennart Pedersen, the head of the Danish Ornithological Society's Project Eagle. 'We think it is realistic to believe that within a few decades, we could see as many as 75 mating pairs. Geographically, there's room for probably as many as 150.'
The society began Project Eagle as a way to protect and gather information about the eagle after it began to return to Denmark from Germany and Sweden.
The group has already learned a number of new things about the eagle's settling patterns.
'It appears that eagles can establish themselves when they are as young as four. That's earlier than we previously believed,' Pedersen said.
Currently, the majority of the eagles nest in south-eastern Denmark. Migration patterns mean that the region will continue to house the largest population of eagles, but Pedersen expects them to become a common sight throughout the country.
Even Copenhagen residents could be welcoming the eagle as their neighbour in the near future.
'One of the 16 pairs of white-tailed sea eagles occupy territory only 30 km from the capital.'