Twelve young Scottish ospreys have been released on the north Spanish coast in a project to restore the birds to the Basque country.

The birds are said to be "faring extremely well" after arriving at Urdaibai estuary to the north of Bilbao.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) granted permission for the five-year project after being approached by the Urdaibai Bird Centre and the regional council.

A licence was issued to Roy Dennis of the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, who collected the ospreys from nests with more than one young in the Scottish Highlands and Moray.

He had been in contact with the Spanish nature reserve since 2008 when it was the temporary home of Logie, a bird he tracked using the first GPS satellite transmitter fitted to a British osprey.

The estuary is often used by migrating ospreys travelling to and from West Africa in spring and autumn, but the bird had been extinct for many years in Spain.

Mr Dennis said: "Lots of ospreys migrate through the Basque country, many of them from Scotland, but what happened in southern Europe is that the bird was really exterminated in the Middle Ages because of competition for fish, at a time when the villages, castles and monasteries all had fish ponds supplying fish."

Osprey populations now exist in central France, as well as in Andalucia in southern Spain, where birds from Scotland were successfully reintroduced about 10 years ago. The project team in Andalucia identified 13 breeding pairs this year.

Twelve ospreys will be introduced to the Basque country each year for the next five years.

The current group have been provided with nest platforms and a daily supply of fresh fish.

Mr Dennis said. "It's hoped that a new population can be created in the Basque country and then southern Europe will slowly restore its population of breeding ospreys."

Project director Dr Aitor Galarza said: "We are so pleased that we have young ospreys flying in Urdaibai biosphere reserve at the start of an exciting project. There is huge public interest and we are most grateful to Scotland for their support."