A report published this week has found that the Borders and parts of north Northumberland could support up to 16 pairs of golden eagles.
The Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) report found that, with suitable conditions, many more breeding golden eagle pairs could inhabit the region than was previously thought.
Currently, there are only around five pairs in southern Scotland, including an estimated one to three pairs in the Borders.
The report found that the region could theoretically support between 11 and 16 pairs. As a whole, the Scottish golden eagle population is around 440 pairs.
The report presents a novel approach in which regions are assessed for habitat suitability. It explored several factors which can affect population, including rainfall, plant growth, potential recreational pressure, persecution records, wind farm developments, nest sites and woodland cover.
The report suggests the next step is monitoring habitats for eagle activity, developing work to improve habitats and other conditions for eagles and assessing where more eagles may come from.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “It is great news that the region could support so many pairs of golden eagles. This offers tremendous opportunities for wildlife tourism and the prospect of re-establishing a special population of these birds.
“As a resident of the Borders, I very much look forward to golden eagles once again becoming a regular sight in our skies. We will work hard to ensure they are given the best possible chance to expand their population and range, given the region contains habitat that we would expect to sustain a greater population of this most magnificent bird.”
The report came out the week after Wheelhouse launched a ground-breaking code for animal and plant reintroductions.
He said: “The guidelines are a world first, setting out the types of situation in which translocations may benefit people and the environment, enabling thorough evaluation on a case-by-case basis.
“Local and national reintroductions can help wildlife become more resilient, as well as help us to combat the effects of climate change.”