The nest of a White-tailed Eagle can be a bulky affair, with those used in successive years taking on huge proportions, as both male and female may add materials to an already impressive structure. The nest is a huge edifice of sticks and branches in a tree or on a coastal cliff which is added to over the years.Made primarily of sticks and branches, it is not unusual for nests to measure up to 2 metres across and 1 metre deep. A giant nest, which had been built upon over a number of years, was found to be 3.7 meters in height. Adults will return to nesting sites and they continue to be used by following generations of birds . Unusually for a large raptor they have been known to nest on the ground where no threat is posed to them by predators or humans. This is often the case in Norway where the eagles for the Irish Reintroduction Project came from.
White-tailed Eagles often have several eyries (places/perches to rest and nest) within their home territory. Being long-lived and faithful to these territories, individual nests may be used for several years, sometimes for decades by successive generations of birds. One nest in Iceland was recorded to have been in use for over 150 years! In parts of the White-tailed Eagle’s range, it has been known for trees to collapse under the enormous weight of such nests.
White-tailed sea eagle chick in nest 2013 (c) GET
The eggs and chicks are supported by a lining of common plants found throughout the White-tailed Eagle’s foraging range. Nests may be located on cliff ledges or 12 metres or higher in a tree. Both conifers and deciduous trees are used
During the breeding season, the male will often bring fresh greenery, for example, heather, moss and fronds to line the lining of the nest. Rather than this being seen as mere decoration, it is thought that this fresh vegetation can assist in helping to sanitize the nest. Many plant possess both antiseptic and antibiotic properties which may help cleanse the nest surroundings of bothersome flies and ticks. In the case of the eagles on Bushy Island it has been noted that the young birds do their little bit to keep the nest clean by defecating out of the nest, almost whitewashing the surrounding trees.