SIX golden eagle chicks have have been translocated to the south of Scotland to boost the species’ population in the area.

The iconic birds have been released in a secret location after being brought down from the Highlands.

The new additions bring the total population of golden eagles in the south to around 39 – more than tripling the population to the highest number recorded in the area for three centuries.

The news comes as nearby Moffat prepares to hold the UK’s only Golden Eagle Festival between September 16 and 18.

TV presenter Gordon Buchanan said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to hear that the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project has successfully released six more golden eagles this summer, bringing the total population to the highest number recorded in the area for three centuries. This is truly groundbreaking.

“The perfect predators, golden eagles are heart-stoppingly exciting to watch, so I’m not surprised that eagle fever is spreading throughout the south of Scotland, as more than 15,000 volunteers and project participants have taken this iconic bird under these wings. It is great to see widespread support from landowners and estates, scouts, schools and other community groups. I’m delighted to support this project as part of the fantastic programme for this year’s Moffat Eagle Festival.”

The news was also welcomed by Borders-based Cat Barlow, the project manager for the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project.

The initiative was awarded the prestigious Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) Tony Bradshaw Award for Outstanding Best Practice earlier this year.

It was also was named a finalist for this year’s National Lottery Awards Project of the Year for its “amazing conservation work”. A public vote, closing on October 9, will decide the winner.

Ms Barlow said: “It is thrilling to know that our six new arrivals bring the local population of golden eagles to the highest number recorded in the area for three centuries. As a top predator, this majestic bird of prey is fundamental to protecting our local eco system. Before our project began, only three pairs were nesting in the south of Scotland. We’ve now more than tripled the population, and though all seem to have settled in the south of Scotland, some of our birds have even travelled as far south as The Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, where the species has been extinct for a number of years.

“Our work has only been possible due to the support of National Lottery Heritage Fund, our project staff and partners, NatureScot licensing team, raptor specialists, Advisory Panel members, estates, CalMac Ferries, Visit Moffat, Moffat Eagle Festival revellers and of course the wider community in the south of Scotland. We would also like to thank all those who take the time to vote for us for the National Lottery Award Project of the Year – the £5,000 prize money could help us make an even greater difference.”